Health & Disability Advocates is committed to protecting rights of children, people with disabilities, and low-income older adults. These vulnerable populations need a range of services; supports and opportunities to lead fulfilling lives; reach their self-determined goals; and obtain financial security. We strive to protect and strengthen federal and state safety net programs: Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Medicare and Medicaid.

Health & Disability Advocates has four main program areas:

  • Children, Youth & Families with Disabilities;

  • Workforce Development for People with Disabilities;

  • Access to Health Care for People with Special Health Care Needs; and

  • Client Services

Children, Youth & Families with Disabilities

Project Access

Project Access is collaboration with two Chicago-area hospitals (University of Chicago and Mt. Sinai) designed to increase access to public benefit programs and improve health outcomes of children with severe disabilities hospitalized in neo-natal intensive care units. The project is unique in that it reaches families at the point of disability and connects them with critical state and federally funded programs and/or counsels them on services covered by private health insurance and then intervenes when families encounter barriers to these programs. For more information, contact Julie Justicz.

Workforce Development for People with Disabilities

Work Incentive Support Center (WISC)

The WISC provides on-going states benefits training while giving technical assistance through the answering of questions that arise from the preparation of individualized benefits analyses. The WISC’s offers training on work incentives through the Social Security Administration, Illinois Department of Human Services and Housing and Urban Development continue to a variety of parent support groups, private vocational rehabilitation agencies and Centers for Independent Living. For more information contact Marsie Frawley.

Self Employment Resources Network (SERN)

SERN was a result of expressed interest from members of the Work Incentives Working Group, a committee formed from the WISC, in expanding employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. SERN provides education on how income from self-employment affects public benefits while being a link to resources and networking opportunities for the development of persons with disabilities who either want to be self-employed or are doing so already. For more information, contact Marsie Frawley.

National Consortium for Health Systems Development (NCHSD)

Authorized under the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvements Act of 1999 (TWWIIA) and approved by the Health Care Finance Administration (HCFA), the National Consortium for Health Systems Development (NCHSD) represents states that have joined together to assist other state agencies, legislatures, consumers and advocates in their efforts to build systems that support competitive employment for individuals with disabilities. The primary means for achieving this goal is through state-to-state information sharing, individualized technical assistance, and the dissemination of best practices to a broad array of involved stakeholders in states around the country. For more information, contact Melissa Wittman.

Access to Health for People with Special Health Care Needs

100% Campaign

In 2000, the Illinois General Assembly passed legislation to increase the medically needy income threshold for older adults and people with disabilities up to 100% of the federal poverty level (FPL). The 100% Campaign – initiated by Health & disability Advocates and our partner the AIDS Legal Council of Chicago – is one of the largest advocate initiated program expansions of Medicaid in the history of Illinois. 

Medicaid Leadership Group (MLG)

The Medicaid Leadership Group, established in February of 2002, brings together state policymakers, legislators, advocates, providers and consumers who are interested in working collaboratively to build relationships with each other; share information and analysis; develop and promote policy including a comprehensive plan for improving upon the current health care system in Illinois. The MLG is comprised of a Board of Executives that includes representatives from key constituent groups. The Board of Executives has worked to create three strong Program Caucuses: Budget Administration, Program Administration and Health Services. Membership in the Medicaid Leadership Group is open to all persons with an interest in the Illinois Medicaid program. 

Client Services

Health & Disability Advocates provides advice and individual representation to thousands of clients per year, including children and adults, in the areas of Social Security, SSI, Children’s SSI, SSDI, Medicare, Medicaid and Insurance law. Health & Disability Advocates will continue to provide individual representation in order to fill a community need and to inform administrative and legislative policy efforts. For more information, contact Tom Yates or Stephanie Altman.

For more information contact us at 312-223-9600 or F.A.X. 312-223-9518

Health & Disability Advocates Staff:

Barbara Otto, Executive Director
Julie Clark, Legislative Liaison
Julie Justicz, Attorney at Law
Ellyce Anapolsky, Chief Financial Officer, Attorney at Law
Laura Wilhelm, Attorney at Law
Melissa Wittman, NCHSD Project Director
Thomas Yates, Attorney at Law
John Coburn, Attorney at Law
Stephanie Altman, Attorney at Law
Marsie Frawley, WISC Director
Seomara Sanabria,  Accountant
Emelin Malave, Administrative Assistant
Laura Barnickol, Project Access Attorney
Phil Milsk, Contractor
Rob Paral, Contractor

Staff Biographies