CDPAS Advisory Council Minutes of the Meeting of August 18, 2020

The regular CDPAS Advisory Council meeting of the Board of Directors of Western New York Independent Living, Inc. was held August 18, 2020 via GoToMeeting.


  • Rachael Johnson, Personal Assistant, Jefferson County
  • Margaret Grauerholz, consumer, Genesee County
  • Kelly Hamlin, consumer, Jefferson County


  • Douglas Usiak, Chief Executive Officer
  • India Lebron, Taking Control Administrator, Erie County
  • Jeffery Betsch, Taking Control Administrator, Erie County
  • Jim Grey, Taking Control Coordinator, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and Allegany Counties
  • Dori Parry, Taking Control Administrator, Niagara County
  • Pat McAllister, Taking Control Administrator, Genesee, Wyoming, Orleans, Livingston and Monroe Counties
  • Gretchen Young, Taking Control Administrator, Jefferson and Lewis Counties
  • Janett Recore, Taking Control Coordinator, Franklin County
  • Jennifer Rose, Maximizing Independent Living Choices, Director of CDPAS 
  • Tracy Marrero-Ulrich, Assistant to the Director of Taking Control, Erie County
  • Tina Brown, Chief Human Resource and Compliance Officer, Western New York Independent Living
  • Kristine Santangelo, Workforce Development Coordinator, Western New York Independent Living

Items of Discussion:

  • Doug Usiak called the meeting to order at 2:00pm.  Doug gave a brief overview of how our CDPAS program is different than other programs around New York State, in that we are a collaboration of Independent Living Centers spanning the state, providing service to 17 different counties by working with the Western New York Independent Living Family of Agencies (WNYIL), Maximizing Independent Living Choices (MILC) in Massena, with regional offices in Malone and Watertown, and Southwestern Independent Living Center, Inc. (SILC) in Jamestown.
  • Doug introduced Electronic Visit Verification (EVV). This mechanism is used to verify electronically when the Personal Assistants (PAs) are working in the consumer’s home, which we have been using for over 10 years by clocking in and out using the consumer’s phone and a pin number provided to the assistant. New York State wants the EVV completely up and running no later than 1/1/2021. Western New York Independent Living, Inc has agreed with the State to be a Beta Tester for the EVV system. We currently are working with an outside vendor to set up all the data points needed in CareTime. Once this process is complete, we will be interfacing with the State system to make sure everything is compatible. This will hopefully all be completed within the next 30 days and information will be relayed to both consumers and PAs as to when this will begin. We are expanding the opportunity for both consumers and assistants with a CareTime consumer portal to keep better track of clock in/out’s and hours worked.
  • Kristine Santangelo presented CareTime Portal.  This is an app that can be downloaded to a phone or computer.  This software will allow both the consumer and/or assistant to monitor schedules, clock in/out times, and hours worked for the week. This should help with consumers being able to reach out to Taking Control Customer Service Staff to correct any errors with hours worked. Consumers with multiple staff can manage schedules for all their PAs.  During consumer intake and PA orientation, both parties will be given information on how to set up and access the portal.  Existing consumers who would like more information on getting access to the portal should contact their administrator.  Existing PAs should contact their PA specialist.  Questions can also be directed to our Customer Service Staff at 1-800-348-8399. 
  • Doug gave an update on what is happening in New York and the changes that are coming as to how many Fiscal Intermediaries (FIs) there are operating around the State.  Currently there are over 450 FIs operating throughout New York State and the State is looking to reduce that number, so, it has put out a request for a bid through a Request For Offer (RFO).  We have submitted our proposal, partnering up with four other Independent Living Centers that will cover 32 to 37 counties across the state.  The proposal was sent back in March, but no decision has been made by the State at this point.  If anyone hears differently out in the community, please contact Doug at ext. 117 or check the Department of Health website for updates.
  • Tina Brown discussed updates to how we are communicating things to the Personal Assistants.  All PAs are now assigned an agency email address through Microsoft Office.  We are using this email to communicate to PAs about any trainings that they may need to complete, especially New York State required trainings such as Sexual Harassment Training.  We are also using this for any communication to PAs regarding other subjects, such as benefit information or changes to a payday.  This is the single most efficient way to communicate any, and all, information to PAs.  Consumers should encourage their PAs to check their emails regularly, as we will be increasing communication via email.  Another reason for setting up these emails is because we will be moving away from sending paper paystubs each pay period.  Live checks will not go away, however.  Anyone utilizing direct deposit, or our rapid pay card, will be emailed the paystub on the morning of each payday and will be able to see it immediately, rather than waiting for it to be delivered in the U.S. mail.
  • Doug discussed that we have been able to receive some foundation, as well as government, support for personal protective equipment (PPE).  We have been able to deliver face masks to all our consumers, a few months ago, and are now working on getting a second round of masks out to consumers for the PAs.  Each consumer is, or has been, provided two masks per PA.  As a consumer, be sure that each PA has their own masks.  If you hire a new PA, please contact your local office and advise that another set of masks is needed.  In some very special circumstances, gloves can be provided but the supply is short, and they are hard to come by.  Hand sanitizer is also a possibility if we are able to secure enough to distribute.  With the expected increase in cases of COVID-19, come fall and winter, PPE will be even harder to get.  We at WNYIL will be keeping an inventory of PPE, but consumers and PAs also must stay on top of their needs. 
  • Doug asked for feedback as to what, as a consumer, do you find difficult.  Margaret Grauerholz stated that recruiting new PAs is sometimes difficult to do, especially when there is no support from family and friends.  Doug stated that consumers can contact their local office to discuss getting help with recruitment from an Independent Living Specialist (ILS). Taking Control staff are unable to help with recruitment, due to state guidelines stating that the consumers are solely responsible for the hiring of staff. ILSs can help with getting fliers made to be distributed throughout the community and getting a specific voicemail set up for responses to fliers.  Tina did state that she saw, on another agency’s website, a job posting section that can link consumers with PAs that are looking for work and vice versa.  This is something that we will be looking into setting up for our consumers and PAs.  If anyone has any ideas for help with recruitment or any other issues, please contact your administrator or Doug at ext. 117.  We are always open to new ideas and are only running this service due to a consumer coming to us around 2001 or 2002, stating we needed to get involved with this program. 
  • Our next meeting will be held October 20, 2020 at 2:00 PM. 
    Future meeting dates are as follows:
    • December 22, 2020
    • February 16, 2021
    • April 20, 2021
    • June 15, 2021

The Taking Control Advisory Committee is still looking for consumers or designated representatives, case workers and Personal Assistants to join.  If you are interested, please contact Tracy Marrero-Ulrich at 716-836-0822, ext. 168, or Doug Usiak at 716-836-0822, ext. 117, or your local office for more details.