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Virginia Board for People with Disabilities

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About the Board

Definition of Developmental Disability

The Board serves as the Developmental Disabilities Planning Council, addressing the needs of people with developmental disabilities as established under the federal "Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act" and the state "Virginians with Disabilities Act". Since 1992, the Board has been an executive branch state agency located within the Secretariat of Health and Human Resources. The Board has autonomy over the use of its federal funding and the hiring of its staff.

The Board advises the Governor, the Secretary of Health and Human Resources, federal and state legislators, and other constituent groups on issues related to people with disabilities in Virginia. The Board's purpose is to engage in advocacy, capacity building, and systems change activities that contribute to a coordinated consumer and family centered, consumer and family directed, comprehensive system of services, individualized supports, and other forms of assistance that enable individuals with DD to exercise self-determination, be independent, be productive, and be integrated and included in all facets of community life.

This is accomplished through outreach, training, technical assistance, supporting and educating communities, barrier elimination, system design/redesign, coalition development and citizen participation, informing policymakers, demonstration of new approaches, services, and supports to community-based service delivery.

The Governor appoints 31 of the Board's 39 members. The remaining eight members are state agency designees. Sixty percent of the Board's 39 members are people with disabilities or family members of people with disabilities. The Board meets at least quarterly in Richmond, Virginia. The Board encourages public comment on its planning activities and at Board meetings, and encourages individuals to contact the Board with needs, information or concerns about disability-related issues.

"Developmental disability," as defined in federal law, is a severe, chronic, often lifelong disability that causes substantial limitations in several major life activities such as: self care, receptive and expressive language, learning, mobility, self-direction, the capacity for independent living, and economic self-sufficiency. It is attributable to a mental, emotional, sensory, and/or physical impairment that is apparent before the age of twenty-two. People with developmental disabilities often need a combination of special services, support, and other assistance that is likely to continue indefinitely.

Director's Message

Welcome to the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities (VBPD) website. VBPD serves as Virginia's Developmental Disabilities (DD) Planning Council. DD Councils are in every state and territory of the United States. They work for the benefit of individuals with DD and their families to identify needs and help develop policies, programs and services that will meet these needs in a manner that respects dignity and independence.

Under mandate of federal and state law, VBPD works to promote and guide public policy changes and create opportunities for new approaches in our service delivery systems. VBPD is proud to have enriched the lives of Virginians with developmental and other disabilities by investing in over 200 best practice, model demonstration and research grant projects that have created change in the areas of education, employment, housing, early intervention, transportation, recreation, and community integration. We work with many public and private groups across the state and nationally to identify best practices, new approaches, and collaborative ventures that facilitate our mission and increase the independence, productivity, and integration of people with disabilities in our Commonwealth.

A key aspect of our work is to advise the Governor, legislators and government agencies on public policy issues as well as on how to develop programs and services for people with DD that will eliminate barriers to full inclusion in all facets of community life. We believe that people with disabilities and their family members play a critical role in identifying needs and in having a say in the policies and programs that affect their lives. Twenty four of our 39 Board members are individuals with disabilities, parents, or family members of individuals with disabilities. Their experiences and perspectives play a vital role in guiding our ongoing efforts to ensure responsive, individualized, and flexible systems of services and supports in our communities.

We look forward to working with you on the important issues and challenges ahead and hope that you find the information and resources on this website helpful.

Heidi Lawyer
Executive Director

Mission and Vision

Mission
To create a Commonwealth that advances opportunities for independence, personal decision-making and full participation in community life for individuals with developmental and other disabilities.

Vision Statement
Virginians with developmental and other disabilities direct their own lives and choose how they live, learn, work, and play.

Structure and Member Roster

The Board is organized into an Executive Committee (EC) and three standing committees: Investment & State Plan Oversight (ISP), Policy Research & Evaluation (PRE), and Advocacy, Outreach, & Training (AOT).

Board Member Roster

Executive Committee
Chair: Charles Meacham (Glen Allen)
Vice-Chair: Angela Sadsad (Virginia Beach)
Secretary: Stephen Joseph (Lynchburg)
Advocacy & Outreach Committee Chair: Randy Burak (Gloucester)
Policy & Evaluation Committee Chair: Angela Yong West (Chesapeake)
State Plan Oversight & Investments Committee Chair: Michael Carrasco (Alexandria)
At Large: Ethel Paris Gainer (Richmond)
At Large: Matthew Shapiro (Glen Allen)
At Large: VACANT

2015-2016 Board Members

Gubernatorial Appointees
Vicki Beatty (Richmond)
George Randolph Burak (Gloucester)
Michael J. Carrasco (Alexandria)
Theresa Casselman (Fairfax)
Curtis Andrew (Salem)
Carina Elgin (The Plains)
Ethel Parris Gainer (Richmond)
Felicia Hamilton (Suffolk)
Stephen Joseph (Lynchburg)
John Kelly (Woodbridge)
Ron King (Manassas)
Donna Lockwood (Virginia Beach)
Mary McAdam (Charlottesville)
Marissa Laios (Chantilly)
Sari Leinonen-Farrell (Virginia Beach)
Rachel Loughlin (Richmond)
Charles Meacham (Glen Allen)
Alexis Nichols (Chesterfield)
Atima Omara (Arlington)
Jessica Philips (Henrico)
Cindy Rudy (Williamsburg)
Korinda Rusinyak (Norfolk)
Angela Sadsad (Virginia Beach)
Summer Sage (Charlottesville)
Matthew Shapiro (Glen Allen)
Jamie Snead (Salem)
Ed Turner (Richmond)
Travis Webb (Norfolk)
Rose Williams (Charlottesville)
Angela Yong West (Chesapeake)

State Agency Designees and DD Network Members
John Eisenberg, Department of Education (DOE)
Melissa Gibson, disAbility Law Center of Virginia (dLCV)
Donna Gilles, VCU Partnership for People with Disabilities (UCEDD)
Ronald Lanier, Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (VDDHH)
Richard Mitchell, Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired (DVBI)
Deanna Parker, Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS)
Terry Smith, Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS)
Kathleen Vaughan, Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS)
Donna Bonessi, Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (ex officio)

Appointment Information

Individuals achieve membership to the Board through appointments by the Governor. The Governor directly appoints Virginia citizens to fill 31 positions of the total 39 member Board as specified in the "Virginians with Disabilities Act." The remaining eight positions are filled by agency heads designated by the Act who serve on the Board by virtue of their position in state government. The Act permits the agency heads to designate a person to represent them on the Board. Individuals directly appointed to the 31 citizen positions and the remaining two agency head positions may not designate a substitute. Acceptance of a direct appointment to the Board is an express commitment to individually meet the responsibilities of membership.

Individuals are appointed to the Board to fill unexpired terms or for full four year terms. Individuals appointed to unexpired terms are eligible for additional appointments for two full terms. The Act limits service on the Board to two successive terms.

To nominate yourself or someone else for Board appointment, you must use the Commonwealth’s new Online Application System (OASYS) found on the Secretary of the Commonwealth's website. Under Nomination for, please select Disabilities, Virginia Board for People with. Under Position, you must list the specific Board position for which you are eligible and are applying. A list of available positions, both currently and for state fiscal years beginning on July 1, can be found on the Gubernatorial Appointments webpage.

Anyone who needs assistance filling out the online application because of a disability can call the Secretary of the Commonwealth's office at (804) 786-2441 or use the TTY/TDD line at 1-800-828-1120, or 711.

Prior to completing your application, you may also wish to review the Member Guide for people serving or interested in serving on a Council on Developmental Disabilities. Please note that the definition of developmental disability as defined in the "Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act", is a severe, chronic, often lifelong disability that causes substantial limitations in several major life activities such as: self care, receptive and expressive language, learning, mobility, self-direction, the capacity for independent living, and economic self-sufficiency. It is attributable to a mental, emotional, sensory, and/or physical impairment that is apparent before the age of twenty-two. People with developmental disabilities often need a combination of special services, support, and other assistance that is likely to continue indefinitely.

Staff Information

Name Position Phone Number E-Mail Address
Director's Office
Heidi L. Lawyer Executive Director (804) 786-9369 Heidi.Lawyer@vbpd.virginia.gov
Policy, Planning & Evaluation
Grace Lambert Director of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (804) 786-7333 Grace.Lambert@vbpd.virginia.gov
John Paul Cimino Director of Public Policy (804) 786-9380 John.Cimino@vbpd.virginia.gov
Communications
Benjamin Jarvela Director of Communications (804) 786-1146 Benjamin.Jarvela@vbpd.virginia.gov
Megan Campbell Communications Assistant (804) 786-2089 Megan.Campbell@vbpd.virginia.gov
Outreach & Training
Penni Sweetenburg-Lee Training Programs Manager (804) 786-9381 Penni.Sweetenburg-Lee@vbpd.virginia.gov
Kara White Programs Assistant (804) 786-3441 Kara.White@vbpd.virginia.gov
Ronita Wilson Alumni Relations Program Assistant (804) 786-3456 Ronita.Wilson@vbpd.virginia.gov
Grants & Contracts Administration
Jason Withers Grants, Contracts, & Program Information Manager 804) 786-9375 Jason.Withers@vbpd.virginia.gov
Administration
Nan Pemberton Director of Administration (804) 786-7335 Nan.Pemberton@vbpd.virginia.gov
Kelly Bolden Board Administration Manager (804) 786-1254 Kelly.Bolden@vbpd.virginia.gov
Joy Harris Board Administration Specialist (804) 786-9368 Joy.Harris@vbpd.virginia.gov

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