Two young friends and a woman sit and smile together in a family living room
December 18, 2023

NYS Council on Developmental Disabilities and NYS Office of New Americans Celebrate International Migrants Day

NYS Council on Developmental Disabilities and NYS Office of New Americans Celebrate International Migrants Day

In recognition of International Migrants Day on December 18th, the New York State Council on Developmental Disabilities (CDD) and the NYS Department of State’s Office for New Americans (ONA) are celebrating their partnership on a unique initiative assisting new Americans with developmental disabilities (DD) and their families to connect with vital resources, information, and services. 

The ONA Ramirez June Initiative is an innovative pilot program, created in 2019 and funded through a five-year CDD grant, designed to improve access for new Americans with DD and their families to vital information and services. The CDD and ONA were inspired to partner on the initiative after the Ramirez family, who immigrated to New York State from Mexico in 2003, and the family of Siewling (June) Lum, originally from Malaysia, shared the barriers they faced seeking services for their children with DD. 

“The CDD’s mission is to enhance the lives of all New Yorkers with developmental disabilities and their families to ensure they are fully included in community life,” said Kristin Proud, CDD Executive Director. “This joint initiative provides a much-needed connection between new Americans with DD and the information and services they need and deserve in order to thrive.” 

The initiative offers in-person and online trainings for participants who have difficulty accessing disability-related services, and creates and distributes translated DD materials, assisting service providers to better understand language and cultural needs in their communities, and tracking and responding to needs identified by new Americans. 

In the first three years of the initiative, more than 3,500 new Americans and service providers participated in workshops on disability and immigration information. 

“The Department of State’s Office for New Americans and its ONA Ramirez June Initiative is proud to collaborate with our partners to ensure new American families, who have loved ones with developmental disabilities and face complex barriers to accessing resources, get the services they so desperately need,” said Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez. “As we recognize and celebrate International Migrants Day our mission has never been more clear; to serve all New Yorkers with dignity, value and the respect they deserve.” 

The initiative has built cross systems partnerships with community based organizations, advisory and parent groups, and State agencies, including the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) increasing its supports and access to services for new Americans, and including this partnership in the OPWDD’s Strategic Plan for 2023- 2027

“OPWDD is focused on inclusiveness for all and that includes New Yorkers with developmental disabilities from historically marginalized communities,” said Kerri Neifeld, Commissioner of the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities. “With input from our stakeholders, we continue to work to educate the public about qualifying for services and programs, particularly among underrepresented groups who may benefit from this range of supports.” 

ONA has released a report on the Ramirez June Initiative highlighting the top barriers new Americans report facing when trying to access DD information or services, goals and outcomes of the project, and recommendations to further drive systematic change. 

To see the full report, visit: 

https://dos.ny.gov/system/files/documents/2023/12/ona_ramirez_june_initiative_final-report_12-01-23.pdf

“The Ramirez June Initiative is a unique project targeted to new Americans with developmental disabilities,” said Bin Feng, parent advocate and CDD Council Member. “I think it's wonderful. I have not heard of any other state having anything like this. And this gives us lots of encouragement. Because we know that on the government level, we have people who notice us, we have people who care about us and support us.” 

The mission of the CDD is to enhance the lives of New Yorkers with developmental disabilities and their families through programs that promote self-advocacy, participation, and inclusion in all facets of community life. The Council works under its core values recognizing disability as a natural part of the diverse human experience, seeking input from people representing diverse perspectives and experiences, ensuring people with DD and family members are agency decision makers, and promoting equity in access to services and resources.

The New York State Office for New Americans is the nation’s first statutorily created immigrant services office. ONA has partners across the state that are hosted in community-based organizations that deliver a variety of services and support, to New York’s new American communities. These sites are the focal point for communities to embrace immigrants by providing them with the tools necessary to thrive and contribute to our state. 

Any immigrant needing free legal assistance or immigration advice is urged to call the New Americans Hotline at 1-800-566-7636 9AM to 8PM (ET), Monday through Friday. All calls are confidential. Assistance is available in more than 200 languages.