CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership

HCBS-ACT: Trainers

The following listing provides background information about the trainers and mentors who will be conducting and coordinating training across Illinois. They have decades of experience in human services, training, the HCBS settings rule, research, advocacy and more.

Kathy Carmody

Institute on Public Policy for People with Disabilities

Kathy Carmody, MSW is CEO of the Institute on Public Policy for People with Disabilities. The Institute is an Illinois statewide membership organization whose mission is to promote policy and practice that assures that all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities have access to services and supports that enable them to pursue meaningful and valued lives. In her role as CEO, Kathy works extensively with stakeholders and policy-makers across Illinois on behalf of people receiving HCBS services. Kathy serves as Chair of the Life Choices Initiative Team 4 which is charged with designing the person centered planning process that will enable Illinois to demonstrate compliance with current CMS requirements. In this role, Kathy has worked closely with families and self-advocates, including presenting webinars and training events to both educate and solicit input regarding the Illinois process. Kathy has extensive knowledge regarding the HCBS regulations and has been asked to provide input into the Illinois State Transition Plan. Kathy works with leaders from other states to analyze their community systems and help Illinois adopt practices and support models that promote maximum community participation, self-direction and individualization. In addition to her role as Team 4 Chair, Kathy serves in other leadership positions that are focused on shifting the Illinois service delivery system toward compliance with the HCBS regulations, including appointment to the Governor's Task Force on Employment and Economic Opportunity for People with Disabilities; Chair of the Task Force Provider Sub-Committee; Innovative and Flexible Day Services Work Group Steering Committee; Statewide Quality Committee and DD Regulatory Advisory. Kathy has been involved in designing person-centered planning materials, and more importantly, translating plans into practice at the provider agency level for two decades. Kathy has extensive experience organizing and presenting materials to self-advocates and families that make complex system regulations and processes accessible and understandable. Kathy is regarded as a highly effective communicator whose extensive experience and knowledge base not only of the HCBS regulations, but the Illinois community service delivery system, will make a unique and impactful contribution to this project.

Katherine Dunbar
Quality Enhancement Specialist
CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership

Katherine is a Quality Enhancement Specialist for CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership, providing accreditation, monitoring, evaluation, training and consultation to human service organizations. Katherine has over 20 years of experience in the field of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, holding various positions in organizational leadership and overseeing hundreds of people in multiple states.

Sarah Gimson
Quality Enhancement Specialist
CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership

Sarah has experience in both the USA and the UK in facilitating better lives for people with Developmental Disabilities. In her 30 years’ experience, she has developed and piloted innovative supports for people, written and delivered training to people with disabilities, families, direct support staff, physicians, and leadership, as well as facilitated both individual and organizational change. The time she spent as a director for supported living and as a consultant in person-centered planning has brought the evidence that anyone can live a life designed and directed by their own preferences. She has led changes in implementing positive behavioral supports, supported decision making, co-production, and self-directed supports within community based services and government services.

Tia Nelis
SABE | Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered

Tia Nelis has worked as the Self-Advocacy Specialist at the Institute on Disability and Human Development (IDHD) at University of Illinois at Chicago for the last 30 years. She is a founding member of People first of Illinois and is currently serving her second term as President of Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE), the national self-advocacy organization. Tia has served on numerous boards and committees, including Equip for Equality, Illinois’ Protection and Advocacy Organization, as well as CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership. This experience, in addition to her passionate state and national advocacy work, uniquely positions her to ensure that people with disabilities are included in policies and are educated on how such policies impact them. Indeed, her illustrious career as a self-advocate has motivated her to develop and implement a week-long Advanced Leadership Academy. Designed to develop future self-advocacy leaders, Tia’s training demonstrates her deep commitment to guiding, mentoring and teaching people with disabilities. Tia is a licensed facilitator of the Steven Covey 7 Habits of Highly Effective People curriculum. She has expansive experience facilitating trainings at the state, national and international levels, and has been recognized at each of these levels for her excellence in training and her passion for advocacy. She has developed training materials for and led trainings on sexuality, self-determination, future planning, leadership, and numerous other topics. Tia’s strengths lie in her ability to ensure that training materials are accessible to all individuals, and in her extremely effective public speaking skills. Tia is also knowledgeable about public policies and their impact on people with disabilities. She participates in the national Disability Policy Seminar every year and is often invited to speak on policy-related issues at the national level, including keynoting at the most recent Association of University Centers on Disability annual meeting.

Aleksa Owen
Research Specialist in Developmental Disabilities
IDHD | Institute on Disability and Human Development, University of Illinois at Chicago

Aleksa Owen, MSW, PhD(c), is Research Specialist in Developmental Disabilities at the Institute on Disability and Human Development (IDHD) at University of Illinois at Chicago. Aleksa, working in multiple capacities at IDHD since 2012, has extensive experience with community-based research projects and training people with developmental disabilities, their families and other stakeholders including providers. Aleksa has developed and facilitated trainings on topics including the DD Act network, sexuality, future planning, and sibling advocacy. The Arc of the United States recently contracted with Aleksa to facilitate full-day trainings on future planning in other states. She has also taught a course on Disability, Health and Society to approximately 75 undergraduates for the last two years, in addition to successfully completing a graduate-level course in instruction skills and methods including adult learner theory. This skillset makes Aleksa well-prepared to instruct and facilitate trainings with a variety of stakeholders including people with disabilities and their families. Aleksa is IDHD’s expert in HCBS settings rule and in particular, Illinois’ Statewide Transition Plan. Aleksa is an active member in state and national working groups that work to educate stakeholders on the rule. Most recently, she facilitated a training on the HCBS settings rule at The Arc of Illinois Convention with Executive Director Tony Paulauski. 

Mary Kay Rizzolo
President & CEO
CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership

Mary Kay Rizzolo is the President and CEO of CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership. Before joining CQL on January 19, 2016, Mary Kay was the Associate Director of the Institute on Disability and Human Development (IDHD), the University Center for Excellence on Developmental Disabilities for the State of Illinois. She has also served as a Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Disability and Human Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) where she mentored students and taught classes on disability policy and community integration for people with disabilities.

Mary Kay previously worked at the Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities at the University of Colorado, was a member of the State of the States in Developmental Disabilities project for almost two decades, a front line supervisor at a large ICF/DD and managed a three-county program that provided home-delivered meals and programming for older adults.

Mary Kay holds a Doctorate in Public Health (University of Illinois at Chicago), a Master’s in Psychology (North Carolina Central University) and a Bachelor’s in Psychology (University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill). Mary Kay is the author of over 50 book chapters, journal articles and reports, focusing on public and financial spending in the states, family support, and cognitive technologies. She is also one of the authors on the only national study of HCBS Waiver services for people with DD in the states. She has extensive experience in long term services and supports and understanding Medicaid services. In April she was an invited keynote speaker on the HCBS settings rule at the NYSARC annual quality conference.


Leanne Roth
Quality Enhancement Specialist
CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership

After fifteen years of working for a traditional human service agency, Leanne is living her dream by advocating for meaningful lives for people with disabilities. Leanne believes that this can be attained through encouraging, educating and enlightening support staff and provider organizations, while empowering people with disabilities to discover, express and achieve their individually-defined outcomes. Leanne strives towards this mission, by serving as a Quality Enhancement Specialist for the CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership, and as the Organizational Coordinator for the Illinois Self Advocacy Alliance. As support staff for the Alliance, Leanne assists the Board of Directors in identifying goals and activities for Alliance member groups, supporting Alliance member groups and advisors in the Chicago Southland, as well as supporting Alliance members to talk about their lives and what they want during presentations and on statewide committees. Leanne currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Arc of Illinois.  

Cathy Ficker Terrill
Senior Advisor
CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership

Cathy Ficker Terrill’s career has included working in government, non-profit organizations, university teaching, advocacy and supporting and mentoring self advocates. Before joining CQL on January 1, 2013, Cathy was President and CEO of The Institute on Public Policy for People with Disabilities, an Illinois based organization dedicated to providing leadership and technical assistance to drive public policy and promote best practices for individuals with disabilities. Past President of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD), as well as a former President of Illinois TASH, Cathy authored a manual on Consent Issues for Self-Advocates and Direct Care Staff. Terrill was a two term Presidential Appointee to the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities (PCPID). Cathy has taught numerous times on the HCBS settings rule including a webinar for Illinois providers that was attended by almost 500 participants. 

Cathy Yadamec
Director of Training and Certification
CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership

Cathy Yadamec is the Director of Training and Certification for CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership. In this role, Cathy coordinates the training opportunities offered by CQL. She oversees the certification of Personal Outcome Measures® Interviewers and Trainers, and is responsible for developing new training opportunities often customizing it to meet the unique strengths and preferences of individual organizations. In the 2000’s Cathy worked with CQL as a Project Manager and in the CMS Look-Behind Contract. For 3 years, Cathy served as the Manager of Quality Improvement/ Quality Enhancement for the Developmental Disability Administration in the District of Columbia, and then returned to CQL as the Project Manager for the Illinois Ligas Outreach Project.


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