NCCJD® Advisors


Barbara Coppens, Disability Rights NJ 

Barbara is a self-advocate who has been advocating for herself and other people with I/DD for over 30 years. She has been in competitive employment for her entire adult life and she believes in people with intellectual and developmental disabilities being able to live in the community and work in competitive employment. She strongly advocated having New Jersey become an Employment First State, which it now is, and she continues to advocate for the cause. In her employment, she works hard to assist people with I/DD to move into the community and along with that comes searching, finding and maintaining competitive employment. She is also an experienced leader in self advocacy, and has served as President of the Advisory Board for The NJ Statewide Self Advocacy Network and as co-convener of the National Council on Self Advocacy (NCSA). She was also Chairperson for Council 4 of The New Jersey Statewide Self Advocacy Network, covering Camden, Gloucester and Burlington Counties. While in this role, she convened and facilitated a police officer training and education video, which is being used in New Jersey and other states to train police officers about interacting with people with disabilities. The video was professionally produced and New Jersey Self Advocates were actors in the video, along with active police officers. The Arc of New Jersey’s Criminal Justice Advocacy Program assisted in the production. She is on many other committees and task forces, including The Arc of New Jersey’s Mainstreaming Medical Care Board, The Arc of Camden and The Arc of New Jersey’s Board of Directors, The Arc of New Jersey’s Governmental Affairs, TASH, and The Arc of the US’ Board of Directors. She has also presented as a keynote speaker at conferences, testified before state legislators in New Jersey, and met with federal legislators to advance the cause. She loves what she does and will continue to advocate for all people with I/DD.

Bill PackardBill Packard, Ph.D.

Bill Packard lives in Plymouth Massachusetts where he maintains a private psychotherapy practice and consults regularly with area service provider agencies. He is a licensed clinician holding a doctoral degree in psychoanalysis; nonetheless, he has taken a non-traditional route by focusing much of his thirty-five year career on intellectual disabilities and forensic mental health. He has recently published a book on the subject and has presented nationally and, most recently, in the UK. He is one of the original founding members of the Community Crisis Intervention Team (CCIT) in Taunton Massachusetts where he continues to play a very active role. 

David WhalenDavid Whalen, First Responders Disability Awareness Training

David Whalen founded Disability Awareness Training (DAT) in September 2004. He specializes in training law enforcement, emergency responders, human service providers, public, private, and school transportation, corporations and businesses, places of worship, and educators. The training is designed to both sensitize and educate the audience on all aspects of disabilities including, but not limited to, definitions of disabilities, etiquette and interaction skills, stigma and misperceptions, proactive approaches to community inclusion and integration, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and overcoming barriers through advocacy. He has presented to over 400 audiences.

Joan PetersillaDr. Joan Petersilia, Stanford Law School

Dr. Joan Petersilia has spent over 30 years studying the performance of U.S. criminal justice agencies and has been instrumental in affecting sentencing and corrections reform in California and throughout the United States. She is the author of 11 books about crime and public policy, and her research on parole reform, prisoner reintegration and sentencing policy has fueled changes in policies throughout the nation. A criminologist with a background in empirical research and social science, Dr. Petersilia is also faculty co-director for the Stanford Criminal Justice Center (SCJC), focusing on policies related to crime control, sentencing, and corrections, and developing nonpartisan analyses and recommendations intended to aid public officials, legal practitioners, and the public in understanding criminal justice policy at the state and national levels. She teaches classes at Stanford Law School on juvenile justice, prisons, community corrections, policy analysis, research methods, and criminal sentencing.

Nora BaladerianDr. Nora Baladerian, Disability Abuse Project

Nora Baladerian, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist in Los Angeles, California, practicing both clinical and forensic psychology. Since 1971, long before the crime victimization field as a whole focused attention on the needs of persons with disabilities, she has specialized in working with individuals with developmental disabilities. With an expertise in serving crime victims with disabilities and people charged with victimless sex crimes, she has successfully rallied victim/witness organization leaders, crime victims' rights advocates, social service professionals, forensic psychologists, law enforcement, attorneys, members of the judiciary, and others to take up the cause of ensuring that the needs of society's most vulnerable are not overlooked or otherwise forgotten. In 1986, as a proactive way both to bring together the growing number of those dedicated to this work and promoting greater cross- disciplinary dialog, she began convening national conferences on abuse of individuals with disabilities, hosting the 10th in 2005 with The Arc of Riverside County, and the First Online Professional Conference of its kind that same year. In 2008, the Attorney General of the United States (see photo above) presented her with the National Crime Victims Service Award in recognition of her pioneering efforts on behalf of persons with disabilities and in advancement of the mission of the Office for Victims of Crime of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Barba-CoppensElizabeth Kelley, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers 

Elizabeth Kelley is a criminal defense lawyer based in Spokane, Washington. Her family settled in the Palouse Country of Washington Territory in 1872, and she was born and raised in Spokane. She returned to the Pacific Northwest in 2012. She travels throughout the country working on cases involving people with mental illness and intellectual/developmental disabilities. She is serving her third term on the board of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), chairs its Mental Health Committee, has chaired the Membership Committee, and is a Life Member. She has served on the Problem-Solving Courts Task Force and currently serves on the Body Camera Task Force. In 2009 and 2014, she traveled to Liberia as part of a mission sponsored by the NACDL and the UN Commission on Drugs and Crime to train that country’s criminal defense bar. In 2013, she traveled to Cuba as part of a People-to-People delegation for lawyers and judges. In2015, she led a legal delegation to London and will lead another delegation to India in 2016. In the summer of 2015, she served on a team of pro bono lawyers representing detained Central American families held at the South Texas Family Residential Center. She lectures across the U.S. on representing persons with mental disabilities, and frequently provides legal commentary for radio and television. Her book reviews regularly appear in The Federal Lawyer, and she hosts two internet radio shows, one titled Celebrity Court and the other, Author Chats. Elizabeth serves on the board of the Spokane Symphony. She has completed her 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training, and serves as a volunteer Yoga instructor at Pura Vida, a non-profit, sober community in Spokane. 

James MeadoursJames Meadors, Self-advocate activist and survivor

James Meadours has held various leadership positions within the field. He was president of People First of Oklahoma, and later served as a VISTA volunteer to strengthen the movement in Oklahoma. He was chair of the national organization Self Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE) from 1999-2002. He was also one of the first self-advocates hired by a state Protection and Advocacy Association (Advocacy, Inc. in Texas), where he works as a self-advocacy specialist. As a survivor of sexual assault and other victimizations, he is dedicated to uncovering the reality of violence that many people with disabilities experience throughout their lifetime. He has presented at rape crisis centers, to both disability and child advocates, as well as law enforcement about victimization issues. He currently serves as a consultant for the Vera Institute of Justice project that is creating self-advocacy peer-to-peer training related to sexual abuse. James resides in San Antonio, Texas.

David WhalenJimmy Donohoe, Pensacola Police Department 

Sergeant Jimmy Donohoe has been employed by the Pensacola Police Department since October 1992. Among his assignments have been Uniform Patrol, Training and Personnel, Community Relations and Crime Intervention. He is currently the Sergeant of the Special Projects Unit, leader of the Crisis Negotiation Team and the Family Liaison for the department’s Honor Guard. Sergeant Donohoe received his Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice in 2005 and has completed more than 1,500 hours of specialized training on a variety of law enforcement topics. He also is a certified Crime Prevention Practitioner and CPTED through the Florida Attorney General’s Office. He created the Take Me Home Program, which has since been adopted by numerous law enforcement agencies nationwide to help people with disabilities during crisis situations.  He currently serves on the Autism Society of America’s Safe & Sound Task Force based in Bethesda Maryland and travels frequently training officers on autism. He is the father of six children and his oldest has been diagnosed with trisomy 13 and autism.

Kecia WellerKecia Weller, Self-advocate

Kecia Weller has a range of experience as an active self and peer advocate. She is a member of the California State Council on Developmental Disabilities, serving since 2012. Kecia has held positions with People First of California (PFCA), including Interim executive director (2011), advocacy director (2011) and state advocacy reporter (1996 – 1999), and been the Los Angeles representative on PFCA board of directors since 2006. Kecia was also a teacher’s assistant at the University of California, Los Angeles Extension Pathway Program from 2008 to 2010 and coordinator of self-advocacy at the California Westside Regional Center from 1998 to 2010. She has been a county supervisor appointee on the Los Angeles County Commission on Disabilities since 2002 and served on the Santa Monica Disability Commission from 2002 to 2012. More recently in 2013, Kecia developed a keen interest in abuse prevention and awareness. She helped research and produce a PSA called Abuse of Persons with Disabilities: The Silent Epidemic Kecia is a new project advisor to The Arc’s National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability.

Leigh MahoneyLeigh Mahoney, Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps

Leigh G. Mahoney has over 22 years’ experience teaching students marginalized by trauma, juvenile justice involvement, and disability. She spent 13 years as an educator for the Robert F. Kennedy Children's Action Corps, working with students in the juvenile justice system as a teacher, Principal, and then as Director of Education and Juvenile Justice Programs. After leaving RFK Children's Action Corps to continue her work in education, serving as a Director for a special education therapeutic day school, Leigh returned in July 2013 as Director of National Education and Program Development, where she works as part of the Robert F. Kennedy National Resource Center for Juvenile Justice. She brings with her extensive experience working with, and designing programs for, students in the community, out of district, and in institutional settings.

Mark StarfordMark Starford, Board Resource Center

In 1994 Mark Starford (BRC Director) recognized an ongoing need and established The Board Resource Center to provide facilitation and leadership development for non-profit organizations, community advocacy groups and government agencies that advocate for or serve people with diverse abilities and function and access needs. He is known for “plain language” technical planning materials, adapting governance procedures for diverse members who serve as volunteers, and training for boards of directors. Under Mark’s leadership, BRC provides strategic consultation, interactive training and development of person-centered systems. BRC has developed a comprehensive library of accessible publications and digital tools available that make complex ideas easy to access and apply. In 2002 BRC partnered with the California Department of Developmental Services to create innovative tools that enhance self-direction and leadership for persons with developmental disabilities. This partnership has created and disseminated more than 25 digital teaching tools and published 10 books that facilitate increased participation in decision-making and choice, community access, personal rights and responsibility, employment, healthcare and emergency preparedness. The consumer-driven publications and videos are used statewide and the Feeling Safe, Being Safe emergency preparedness tools have been adapted by other states with BRC support.

Michael SullivanMichael Sullivan

Sergeant (retired) Michael Sullivan was with the San Francisco Police Department for 32 years. His experience includes Patrol, Field Training, Administration, and 17 years as the SFPD's Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Coordinator -from 1992 through retirement in 2009. While on duty at the age of 26, Michael was the victim of a violent crime and, as a result, is disabled. His disability has provided him with the unique ability to see the ADA as it relates to law enforcement and corrections from both the perspective of a disabled person and the perspective of a law enforcement officer. As the SFPD's ADA Coordinator, Michael was the department's liaison with San Francisco's disabled community and assured the department's compliance with Title I and II of the ADA by developing policies, procedures and training. In conjunction with San Francisco Community Mental Health Services, Michael developed and implemented Police Crisis Intervention Training, an intensive 40-hour course for San Francisco police officers that educated them about psychiatric disorders and developmental disabilities and provided them with intervention skills for effective interaction with persons with psychiatric disabilities. The course has been recognized and honored by San Francisco's Board of Supervisors, and the California Assembly. Michael is the principal consultant with Michael Sullivan ADA Consulting for Law Enforcement.

Molly Kennedy, Self-advocate and businesswoman

Biography coming.

The GammichiasOfficer Andrew Gammicchia and former Officer Carolyn Gammicchia, L.E.A.N. on Us

The professional training staff of L.E.A.N. On Us have been conducting trainings for fifteen years on a variety of topics. Executive Director Carolyn Gammicchia leads the staff as a certified trainer, advocate, and consultant. She has also coordinated conferences, sat on professional panels, and her materials have been utilized nationally and internationally for over fifteen years. She has also designed curriculum that has been state certified for first responder professionals across the country and has assisted on many different community projects with first responder agencies, consulted on training videos, and assists both victims of crime who have disabilities as well as those accused of crimes to access the appropriate services. She has also testified in both criminal and civil cases on these issues as both a law enforcement officer and an expert witness regarding training of professionals. Ms. Gammicchia and her husband Andrew were the first to introduce on a national level "Appropriate Response ~ Appropriate Preparedness" trainings for the Autism Community. Since doing so these presentations, the materials have been expanded to educate on a variety of disabilities. These trainings consist of day long sessions with professionals which end with an open meeting to bring together professionals and the community members they serve so that concerns are honored by both segments. These are often the most valuable parts of the day because we all learn each others expectations and limitations and are able to discuss solutions to bring together the community so the best services can be offered. Additionally an evening session is held for community members including individuals with disabilities, their families and care providers, so that the community piece on preparedness can be shared. Materials and a wide range of resources and information are offered in both sessions. Self advocates are also involved within all aspects of training. The Gammicchias have also assisted in passing of legislation on the training of first responders and provided both written and testimony at hearings on the subject. Ms. Gammicchia has also authored several articles which have been featured in national and local publications on this subject as well as created materials to provide individuals with disabilities a safer path for their self-determined lives. The Gammicchia's have a unique aspect due to their personal backgrounds of extensive training in the law enforcement field within several areas of specific expertise as well as having members of their family affected by the disabilties they both train and consult on. Carolyn had a brother who lived with Epilepsy and was arrested several times due to what was thought to be "abnormal behavior" but in reality was a seizure. The Gammicchia's also have a son living with autism who assists them with their trainings and presented along side them at conferences.

Patti SaylorPatti Saylor, RN MS, Parent Advocate
Owner, Health Link LLC, a healthcare consultation and advocacy business.
Mother of the late Ethan Saylor

Patti is the proud mother of three young adult children, Emma, Adam and the late Ethan Saylor. She has been an advocate for most of her life. As a teenager, Patti volunteered with Special Olympics Maryland, later earning a degree in Therapeutic Recreation from Shepherd College (University) with an emphasis on working with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In 1987, shortly after Ethan was born Patti founded F.R.I.E.N.D.S, The Family Resource Information and Education Network for Down Syndrome, a parent support network in Frederick, Maryland, now an NDSS affiliate. Patti went on to become a registered nurse and eventually earned a Master’s Degree in Special Education from Johns Hopkins University. Patti has served on the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council, co-founded The Parent's Place of Western Maryland and was instrumental in creating inclusive education opportunities for children with Down syndrome in Frederick County. Patti has served on numerous work groups, committees and boards, all in an effort to increase awareness and acceptance of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Patti is currently the owner of Health Link LLC. She and her nurses provide nursing case management for adults with disabilities who choose to live in their own homes and self-direct their own services with the support of the significant people in their lives. Patti and her family were and continue to be tireless advocates for their beloved Ethan. They supported him to follow his dreams and live the life he wanted, a life of love and acceptance. Following his tragic death last January, Patti has dedicated herself to advocate justice for Ethan. Patti continues to fight fearlessly at the federal and state levels of government to ensure what happened to Ethan never happens to another member of the Down syndrome or disability community again. In large response to Ethan’s senseless death, Governor O’Malley of Maryland issued and executive order establishing the Commission for Effective Community Inclusion of People with Intellectual Disabilities. In addition, Patti along with other dedicated advocates in the state of Maryland are spearheading an effort to pass a Ethan’s Law.

Shirley PaceleyShirley Paceley, Blue Tower Training

Shirley Paceley is the founder and director of Blue Tower Training in Decatur, Il. Blue Tower has resources in 48 states and 15 countries and Shirley has spoken in over 30 states as well as in Iceland and Guam. Shirley has worked with people with disabilities for 40 years and has a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology. Shirley is on the Board of Directors of End Violence Against Women International and the Editorial Board of Sexual Assault Report for her work in violence against persons with disabilities. Shirley developed the “WE CAN Stop Abuse Curriculum” for people with developmental disabilities and authored “My Body My Choice” as well as book chapters and articles, music CDs, and DVDs. Shirley serves on the Illinois Imagines Team that facilitates systems change to enhance the response to survivors of sexual assault who have disabilities. Shirley also serves on the Illinois Family Violence Coordinating Council Responding to Survivors with Disabilities Committee which developed model statewide protocols for law enforcement and prosecutors in responding to victims with disabilities. Shirley works extensively across the nation to stop violence against people with disabilities and to improve survivor access to the community and criminal justice response. Shirley also provides inspirational trainings and coaching. Shirley recently published the book, “Living Joy-Fully”.Shirley is an international trainer with more than 40 years of experience working with people with disabilities. In addition to being a trainer, she is a counselor, consultant, writer, advocate and visionary.

Thomas JuddThomas Judd, Esq., Fredrikson & Byron Law Practice

In addition to his over 30 years of experience advising closely held and family-owned businesses relating to ownership structure, entity formation, business transactions, mergers and acquisitions and ownership succession and transition, Thomas is an active member of The Arc of Greater Twin Cities in St. Paul, MN, where he served as president of the board of directors. He is personally connected to The Arc’s mission as a family member of several people with disabilities.