July 21, 2022

BJ and Michele: Partners in Advocacy

An influential self-advocate benefits from the relationship with his Care Coordinator.

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BJ Stasio has long been a respected and recognized voice in the disability rights community. His advocacy continues to make an impactful difference across New York State as he leads efforts to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities.

“I don’t think of myself as a leader,” says BJ. “I’m just a person with a lot of firsthand knowledge that needs to be shared. I don’t have a problem speaking up!”

Recently, BJ received a Community Advocacy Award from the New York Alliance for Inclusion Innovation and was inducted into the Susan Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame. He has served as the president of the Self-Advocacy Association of Western New York and currently is a valued member of the Family, Individual and Caregiver Advisory Board (FICAB) at Person Centered Services. He also is promoting a new Art of Advocacy program to train future self-advocates.

Given BJ’s many accomplishments, it may seem intimidating to coordinate care for such an influential activist. Michele Halbert, Care Coordination Supervisor at Person Centered Services, has proven the perfect person for the role, providing the support BJ needs to thrive as he pursues his advocacy work.

“BJ and I talk constantly,” says Michele. “I have learned so much from him. I now have an awareness of accessibility issues I never knew existed. I help ensure BJ makes the most of his self-directed budget and gets the medical treatment he needs.”

Michele and BJ have worked together since October of 2019. During this time, Michele has connected him to new equipment, including wheelchairs and lifts. She has found funding for modifications to his apartment building and van, improving his mobility. She has also navigated Medicaid and third party insurance on his behalf, and worked directly with health care providers.

“I keep Michele busy,” says BJ, who appreciates all that his Care Coordinator has done for him. “She keeps me even-keeled!”

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Currently, BJ enjoys regularly visiting the Ferris wheel at Buffalo Riverworks on summer days. At his request, the owner built an elevator so BJ and others like him can access the ride. Accommodations like this make a major difference for the inclusion of people with disabilities in their communities.

“Your dreams are important and what you have to say matters, don’t think it doesn’t,” says BJ, who encourages others to engage in activism surrounding issues that are meaningful to them.

BJ is grateful to work with a company like Person Centered Services that reflects his values. “I enjoy the fact that this place is truly person-centered,” he says. “It is important that the people I work with feel that way, and I know the company does.”

Person Centered Services is proud to partner with BJ as he fights for the people we serve. His advocacy will continue to make New York State a better place to live for people with disabilities and their families.

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