Watkins retires after 10 years
with AIM’s OPWDD programs
Congratulations to Wendy Watkins, who is retiring today after 10 years of service with AIM.
Watkins has played a key role in AIM’s programs for people with developmental disabilities, provided regionally under contract with the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD).
Watkins is AIM’s Service Access Intake Coordinator. She helps people gain eligibility for OPWDD services, learn about services that are available to them, and connect to providers.
She also supervises AIM’s OPWDD Family Support Services Program, which offers monthly playgroups, social skills classes, summer day camps, dance parties and other activities to young children, tweens and teens. Watkins helped to develop and grow these programs, which also included parent support groups, over the past decade.
Prior to joining AIM, Watkins – who has a daughter with a developmental disability – worked for several other organizations in the area which provide OPWDD services, including Able2, Pathways and Economic Opportunity Program (EOP).
Watkins plans to continue her advocacy for people with developmental disabilities in retirement.
TBI Waiver participant back home, recovering after brain aneurysm
Fred Talada calls his wife Debra “a miracle,” and it’s not hard to see why. She survived a ruptured brain aneurysm in 2019 and multiple brain surgeries and had lengthy stays at rehab centers. Two years later, Debra has regained her ability to speak and walk. She’s back home and regaining her independence.
Debra Talada receives service coordination through AIM’s Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Medicaid waiver program. Waiver programs provide home- and community-based services as an alternative to institutional care.
Debra was found unresponsive by her husband one day in April 2019. She was rushed to Guthrie’s Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre, where she had a procedure to repair the aneurysm. The next day, a CT scan revealed blood clots in her brain, which required a major surgery to remove.
After she was released from the hospital, she spent several months in rehab at two different facilities.
In the fall of 2019, Fred took his wife out of a nursing home and back to their home in Chemung. She received home visits from therapists and nurses through the Chemung County Health Department.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began in spring 2020, the couple couldn’t have home visits, but Fred did therapy with his wife every day. She worked hard and was persistent, and eventually progressed from a wheelchair to a walker to a cane to being able to walk on her own. She could barely whisper at first, and now has regained her ability to speak.
“She still has some memory issues, especially short-term memory,” Fred Talada said. “But it’s such a blessing. She could have been bedridden or not be here at all.”
AIM’s TBI Waiver Program has helped the Taladas connect with medical providers, acquire medical equipment, and apply for benefit programs, among other services.
Jessica Farin is featured in this month’s Employee Spotlight.
Farin is the coordinator of AIM’s Peer Integration Project, which provides additional training and assistance to people with disabilities who are participating in the state’s Vocational Rehabilitation program.
Farin started with AIM as a General Advocate, and continues to do general advocacy work. She is hard of hearing and uses both spoken English and sign language. She is a valuable resource to people in the community who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Farin was nominated by her coworkers for her recent advocacy on behalf of a deaf consumer who was involved in a domestic abuse situation.
Farin helped the consumer get assistance from law enforcement. She also helped the consumer learn to use public transportation and to rebuild her connections with family and friends.
“She was patient, kind and went the extra mile,” a coworker who nominated her wrote.
September staff anniversaries:
- Laurette Guild, Navigator Program Coordinator (8 years)
- Adrienne Minichello, Health Insurance Navigator (8 years)
- Jessica Farin, Peer Integration Project Coordinator (5 years)
- Nichole Ingram, Finance Generalist – Contract Management (3 years)
- Jessica Harshberger, Housing Service Coordinator (2 years)
- Ryanne Michaels, Representative Payee Coordinator
- Social Security Benefits Advisor
- Administrative Assistant
- Delivery Driver (Community Nutrition Program)
- Supported Employment Specialist
- Veterans Advocate
- Independent Living Skills Trainer (NHTD/TBI Waiver Programs)
- Home Care Specialist
- Home Care Personal Assistants
- OPWDD Direct Support Professionals
- OPWDD Self-Hire Staff
To view job descriptions and apply online, visit aimcil.com.
AIM Independent Living Center’s offices are open by appointment only, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, call (607) 962-8225.