Category Archive: Blog

Apr 12

Influencing Businesses about the Value of Integrated Employment


When a business hires a new employee with a disability being supported by a community provider, the onboarding process, including staff coaching, typically takes several weeks or even months.   Should that business hire a person with a disability supported by Penn-Mar Human Services for that same job, the employer can expect to have them trained and ready-to-go in only three days.

How and why is that possible?

It’s possible because Penn-Mar’s Customized Employment Program has literally done all the hard work for the employer in advance, ensuring a successful employment match.

People with or without disabilities succeed in their jobs if they are doing something that interests them and requires skills and talents they’ve mastered. If they don’t like what they do, or don’t feel up to the task, they won’t excel. It’s that simple.

Penn-Mar utilizes a four to six week discovery and exploration process to identify each of our job seekers’ skills, preferences and natural talents.

We then develop paid and non-paid activities such as informational interviews, internships and job shadowing opportunities with potential employers to gain a better understanding of specific job tasks, work environments and labor needs. Only then can we determine if a mutually beneficial relationship exists between the employer and our job seeker.

If it does, Penn-Mar provides the individual with ongoing support through job coaching, mentoring, training and/or the development of natural workplace supports to ensure a successful transition to a competitive work environment.

That’s what we are doing very successfully today.

But what about the future? How can we permanently bridge the divide between employers and people with disabilities that will have the business community saying, “Why didn’t we see the potential and value of this workforce sooner!”

Penn-Mar and many organizations like ours have been taking the message out to businesses that it makes good sense to employ people with disabilities. Our advocacy is paying off but our next step is to influence the overall profession of Human Resources.

If you go to a local college or university today and explore curriculum for people studying for the HR field, you will, no doubt see volumes of information regarding diversity.  Unfortunately, you will see little mention of the value of full inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace.

Yet today’s college students, our future leaders, represent the first generation of students who may have shared a classroom with people with disabilities in high school. They are not complete strangers to these individuals’ needs and capabilities but once they hit college, it seems as if much of that experience may be lost.

At Penn-Mar, our vision for the future would include taking a lead role, to work with the higher education system to help them develop specific curriculum about individuals with disabilities and what they bring to the workforce. We need to teach Human Resources professionals how businesses can accommodate this culture.

Employers will learn that they don’t have to deliver support out of the norm; surprisingly a few creative processes that are not all that hard to implement can make a huge difference. But they need to be explored and taught in order to be implemented.

By helping these future HR leaders make permanent changes in the workforce to include skilled employees with disabilities, our culture will finally recognize and understand why these individuals are such a valuable resource.

That is the preferred future, the right future for individuals with disabilities who have the desire, skills, training and experience to get the job done.


By Gregory Miller

President/CEO Penn-Mar Human Services


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Feb 24

Two Funding Strategies for Two Different Budget Scenarios

Two Funding Strategies for Two Different Budget Scenarios

By Gregory Miller

President/CEO Penn-Mar Human Services


It’s budget time in Maryland and Pennsylvania and we at Penn-Mar are watching the proceedings with great interest while putting our advocacy strategies in place for both states.

In Maryland, our advocacy will evolve around “promises made and promise kept.” Governor Hogan’s 2017 budget was short on mandatory funding increases for staff serving Marylanders with developmental disabilities. So instead of including a mandatory 3.5% wage hike to the Developmental Disabilities Administration, the budget was reduced to 2%.

Our end goal is to get that funding restored and we will be joined in that effort by our human services agency partners in Maryland and the parents and families of the individuals we support. We anticipate an uphill climb but our position on the mandated 3.5% wage increase is clear – this is not an option; the state needs to make good on their promise.

At Penn-Mar, we don’t look to the government as the answer to all of our needs, but we do view them as partners and the state’s mandate is to care for and provide resources for the most vulnerable folks in our society.  It’s a promise that must be kept.

In Pennsylvania, we are heartened by the 2017 budget released last week by Governor Wolf. In a very difficult year, the Governor made intellectual disability and autism funding (ID/A) priority areas in the proposed budget. Our advocacy approach in PA will be to ensure that the proposed funding remains in the budget.

It’s apparent from the proposal that the message was received about the need to address the low wages of Dedicated Support Professionals (DSPs) and no matter what side of the aisle you’re on, it’s hard to argue that these essential workers deserve more than a minimum wage for the valuable services they provide.

The proposed closing of the Hamburg State Center – where services cost $409,000 per person per year – will begin the long-overdue transition to cost-effective community integration and services.

This move will save millions in the long-run but will require considerable upfront costs as individuals become more involved in community opportunities and their support needs evolve. We support this move and if fact support the closing of the additional state centers as well as people’s lives should be spent in community settings with the supports necessary to ensure a meaningful life.  One can only imagine how different the community integration model will look like in 15 years if the financial resources are invested responsibly and appropriately.

Some of the highlights of Governor Wolf’s proposed budget that are most important to the Penn-Mar mission include:

  • $54.7 million to provide for rate increases from the renewal of the waiver program;
  • $109.7 million to provide for increases in utilization and costs;
  • $15.4 million for the Community Living Waiver to create a new program for family caregivers to ensure 1,000 individuals currently on the waiting list can continue to live at home;
  • $8.5 million to expand services for individuals with disability to provide home and community-based services for 820 students graduating from special education – a figure that is projected to cover every such student this coming year;
  • Funding to begin to transition individuals from the Hamburg State Center to home and community-based services;
  • $9.3 million for new community participation services from the renewal of the waiver program;

We are pleased the Wolf Administration is beginning to take DSP wages seriously.  We are also very encouraged that this year’s proposed budget would assist students graduating out of the school system to find supports necessary to continue a meaningful life.

Adequate funding from both states will ensure that Penn-Mar Human Services can continue to provide innovative programming and staff development and retention, initiatives that are critical to the continuing care of the individuals we support.

On the proactive front here at Penn-Mar, our 24 DSPs who are now working toward Certification and merit bonuses — and our fundraising efforts to expand this program in the years ahead — coupled with our robust initiative to increase starting wages for new staff, are the best investments we can make to continue our mission of transforming life into living.


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Jan 19

Transition Time: Stay Informed and Engaged

By Gregory Miller

President/CEO Penn-Mar Human Services


Last week both the U.S. House and Senate laid the groundwork to repeal the Affordable Care Act. No one, including those of us at Penn-Mar, knows exactly how all of this will play out in terms of how new healthcare legislation might impact the individuals with disabilities that we support.

I do know that change of any kind can promote fear and concern. And when you entangle those emotions with misinformation and doomsday headlines, you create a perfect storm of anxiety.

At Penn-Mar, we don’t operate out of fear and never will. Instead, we believe that the role of leadership is to navigate through the reality of what we have to face, live in the world of what is — not what we wish it could be — and advocate strongly for the change we want to see.

No doubt we have some challenging realities in front of us.

But we’re not standing still.

We are currently meeting with our elected officials to educate them about the important services that Penn-Mar provides, the ever-increasing cost of providing those essential services, and the need to continually train and fairly compensate the Dedicated Support Professionals (DSPs) who make our work possible.

I also serve on the Board of PAR leading their employment work group. As many of you know, PAR is a nonprofit that represents home and community-based service providers in Pennsylvania. You can be assured that this organization will be working tirelessly to see that the individuals we support in Pennsylvania will continue to receive the person-centered services they require.

Penn-Mar operates in both Pennsylvania and Maryland. Funding for the services we provide is different from state-to-state, so there is no one rate structure or formula for what funding will be available to us going forward. But in Pennsylvania we are expecting a complete funding realignment for how services will be paid.

The healthcare services our individuals receive are not covered by the Affordable Care Act, but rather by Medicaid. The headlines have been very misleading in this regard and I don’t foresee the Republican majority un-insuring 6 million people or jeopardizing Medicaid health care coverage to the individuals who need it most. Imagine those headlines!

It is important, now more than ever, that families and advocates for people with disabilities contact their representatives at both the state and local levels to keep up the pressure to put the rights and needs of our individuals on the front line. (contact information for representation in both Maryland and Pennsylvania are included below).

We at Penn-Mar will be taking the lead to ensure that every elected representative clearly understands what we do and who it affects, and what can happen if the critical supports we provide are not in place. Together, let’s advocate for what should be and never back away from that goal.


Representatives for MD residents


Representatives for PA residents






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Dec 07

The Best Day

Striving to Make Every Day “The Best Day”

By Gregory Miller

President/CEO Penn-Mar Human Services


As the holidays and the end of another year approach, most of us are feeling a bit overwhelmed with all that needs to be done in just a few short weeks.

We are making lists, entertaining and being entertained, and shopping for just the right gifts for family and friends. We want that one special day – Christmas – to be the best day.

But here at Penn-Mar, we’ve set our sights even higher. We want every day of the year to be the best day for the individuals with intellectual disabilities we support. And we need your help to do that.

Like everyone, our individuals thrive when they have a sense of purpose. Their best days begin and end with something to look forward to, be that a job, a volunteer opportunity, or an outing with friends to a museum or lakeside cabin. They want to be part of, not set apart from, the community where they live.

We are able to make that life possible for some – but not all – of our individuals because traditional funding sources alone are not enough to support our innovative programs like community based learning and customized employment. Person-centered programs will ensure more individuals with intellectual disabilities have a pathway to full inclusion.

Every day Penn-Mar is helping our individuals explore career opportunities that best suit their skills and temperament and providing support staff to train, encourage and get them where they need to be.

We have individuals who never dreamed of being employed who are receiving training and support that translates into paying jobs in fields they love: sports, food service, child care, office work and manufacturing.

We need your help to continue this work and are committed to being good stewards of your generosity. Ninety-six cents of every dollar donated to the Penn-Mar Foundation will make it possible for us to integrate more and more individuals with intellectual disabilities into the community where they will be able to experience their best day, every day.

On behalf of our staff, families, and the individuals we serve, our thanks and best wishes for your continued support.

For online contributions to Penn-Mar Human Services, visit:;jsessionid=00000000.app216a?df_id=1492&mfc_pref=T&1492.donation=form1&NONCE_TOKEN=279D3F222BF5613AA0C7AD793CED416C

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Nov 21

From Exclusion to Inclusion


By Gregory Miller

President/CEO Penn-Mar Human Services

There is a revolution taking place in our country. No, it has nothing to do with the recent presidential election but everything to do with how people with disabilities are participating and thriving in the work force. This movement is characterized by competitive and integrated employment taking place in our communities and it’s the wave of the future.

We refer to this phenomenon as the “inclusion revolution” and it’s a movement as exciting and explosive as the phrase implies.

Penn-Mar has a reputation in the human services field as being at the forefront of this initiative. We are often called upon to consult with other organizations to share our highly customized approach to employment in an integrated community setting and the long-term successful outcomes that we see and celebrate every day.

Our journey began several years ago when we began to strategically envision and pursue the employment model we wanted to create for our individuals. This required a major shift in thinking after years of offering many of the individuals with disabilities that we support work opportunities in what were then known as a “sheltered workshops.”

These “workshops” were large open rooms where people with disabilities were provided specific work tasks and earned a paycheck for their efforts.  It was often very good work but it took place in an environment that clearly set them apart from our community.  Recognizing a segregated setting was not appropriate or acceptable, we were determined to change our approach. And that is exactly what we’ve done, quite successfully.

Fortunately, this new paradigm has been embraced by others, including the Federal Government.  Companies like Penn-Mar are now partnering with the business community to train, supervise and find customized employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities who have the skills and desire to become part of a professional workforce.

We have dubbed our customized employment program “Project Invincible” because that‘s how our individuals feel when they set off for their jobs each day and return home at the end of a challenging day’s work.

As a result of this unique partnership, businesses are finding a motivated, ready workforce who approach their jobs with enthusiasm and dedication. And employees with disabilities feel valued and independent. It’s a winning combination for the workplace, the employees, and society-at-large.

As more people with disabilities become part of the world around them, they stand ready and willing to take on their next big assignment.

In short, they feel invincible.

On November 30, from 8:00 – 9:30 am, Penn-Mar Human Services and the Baltimore County Chamber of Commerce will co-host a forum in Sparks, Maryland entitled “From Exclusion to Inclusion” to educate business leaders about the availability of this Invincible Workforce. There is no charge to attend the forum, but space is limited. For more details or if interested in attending, please RSVP Kathy Rogers at

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Oct 17

Providing Real Jobs with Real Rewards








By Greg Miller

President/CEO Penn-Mar Human Services

A wise man once said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” There’s a lot to be said for an honest day’s work at a fair wage. It gives us a sense of pride and accomplishment, allows us to continually learn new skills, make friends, and become more independent, both personally and financially.

Individuals with disabilities want and deserve the same opportunity to choose their own career paths and at Penn-Mar Human Services we help them do just that.

Here’s what we believe:

  • There is a job for everyone who wants one, regardless of disability;
  • There are no pre-requisites;
  • Everybody is ready to work;
  • Penn-Mar will discover careers, not just jobs.

Our innovative Customized Employment Program uses a process we call “exploration and discovery” to identify each job seeker’s personal preferences, skills, interests and needs. We develop activities to prepare them for the interview and work environment, match them with local business partners, and provide on-going support and coaching to ensure they are well-suited and successful in their career.

These are real jobs with real rewards that enable our folks to earn a competitive wage; to receive benefits equal to the job’s responsibilities; and to enjoy the satisfaction of working to their maximum potential.

In the past year alone, we have assisted 99 individuals to successfully transition and participate in community employment in Pennsylvania and Maryland, where they are working as data entry clerks, machine operators, retail and childcare assistants, housekeepers, food preparers and servers.

And the list goes on.

The resources needed for us to achieve this degree of personalized support are not available from traditional sources.

We are continually looking to our supporters and new funding sources to help us maintain and enhance our customized approach to employment for the individuals we serve who are ready, willing and anxious to get to work and become part of the community.

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Sep 12

Hats Off to Our DSPs

By Greg Miller

President/CEO Penn-Mar Human Services


This week we are celebrating Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week, a national campaign that puts the spotlight on the thousands of dedicated, hard-working DSPs who make community living possible for people with disabilities.

Here at Penn-Mar we are hosting a number of events with food, games and prizes throughout the week at our locations to show our appreciation for this valued workforce, but that’s just the beginning.

On Monday we announced that we are partnering with the National Alliance of Direct Support Professionals to launch an outcomes-based DSP Credentialing Program with an inaugural class of 26 qualified and deserving DSPs.

These selected individuals have met high performance standards to be accepted into the program, and they will be devoting a minimum of 100 hours of course work and practicums to ultimately achieve their Certification and enhance their compensation.

Those who are eligible to participate in this program will become leaders among us, both informally and formally.  Their rigorous training will enable them to be skill mentors to their peers, helping to improve team dynamics and Penn-Mar’s culture of care through their leadership and support.

At this year’s Black Tie Gala, we asked our guests to consider contributing to this valuable and critical initiative to help us improve the recruitment and retention of skilled DSPs — the support team that allows Penn-Mar to transform life into living for the individuals we serve.

The response was overwhelming. In just minutes we raised $150,000 and those funds have enabled us to put our vison into action.

But again, that’s just the beginning.

With your continued support and encouragement, we hope to show our DSPs how much they are valued at Penn-Mar and how far we are willing to go to see that they receive the education, respect and compensation they so rightfully deserve.

Please join me in thanking them for all they do.

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Jul 12

Texas Roadhouse donates to Community Learning Services Groups

On Friday June 3rd, Texas Roadhouse in Hunt Valley supported Penn-Mar Human Services through donations received during their pre-opening Friends and Family event. Texas Roadhouse gifted Penn-Mar Human Services a generous gift of $4,050.33 which was collected throughout the evening.

These funds are going to support the Community Learning Services Program. The CLS Program creates opportunities for community learning and acceptance though partnership and choice for individuals with disabilities. The program is centered on community membership and involvement in experiential opportunities.

Read more about CLS here:

Pictured: Melanie and Susie greeting patrons as they enter the restaurant. 

texas roadhouse CLS

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Jul 08

Penn-Mar Staff Receive Safety Awards

safety century winners
Penn-Mar’s Safety Sentry Program was established to recognize employees and individuals, who identify and report, eliminate unsafe conditions, or whose actions and ideas ensure the safety of others. Employees are eligible to be nominated for successfully participating in any of the following:

  • Team Participation (Training)
  • Implementation of Safety Improvements
  • Hazard Reporting
  • Safety Assessments/Audits
  • Emergency Response Coverage

Congratulations to the following staff who have proven their dedication to safety over the past year:

Rita Arnett
Lisa Hartley
Lydia Hurst
Essence Kehr
Tianna Morrill
Barry Mitzel
Dean Pearson
Ruth Diaz-Griffith
Samuel “Justin” Eveler

Jean McKee
Brandy Lau

Nadia Leon

Penn-Mar After Hours Committee:

Sharon Allan, Jes Blais, Michelle Delozier, Sandy Dougherty, Emily Long, Rhoda Mullen, Brian Paterniti, Sarah Willey

Jim and Glenda Bisker


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Jun 24

Penn-Mar Staff Graduate from National ACRE Employment Training

On May 25th, 2016, Six Penn-Mar employment staff graduated from the national ACRE employment training course. ACRE (Association of Community Rehabilitation Educators) is a national membership organization for trainers and educators who work in the field of employment for people with disabilities. Through this 8 week course, the group learned best practices for supporting individuals with disabilities in employment, including history, exploration and discovery, job development, job coaching, follow up supports and assistive technology resources.

ACRE CLASSPictured: Gary Madigan, Kelly Fry, Allyson Cox, Jamie Beecher, Jennifer Adams, and Courtney Camarota


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