State Rehabilitation Council Members

Helping Families. Supporting Communities. Empowering Individuals.

As of July 1, 2016, members of the State Rehabilitation Council include:

  1. Tony Arellano - Disability/Advocacy Group
  2. Homer Bizzle - Disability/Advocacy Group
  3. Kristy Giacomini - Disability/Advocacy Group
  4. Rahnee Patrick - Disability/Advocacy Group
  5. Matthew Rosenberg - Disability/Advocacy Group
  6. LaDonna Henson - Business, Industry, & Labor
  7. Melynda McKeever - Business, Industry, & Labor
  8. Prerak Mehta - Business, Industry, & Labor
  9. Susan Shaw - Business, Industry, & Labor
  10. Marco Lenis - Community Rehabilitation Program
  11. Leslie Jenkins - Client Assistance Program
  12. Bryan Dallas - Secondary or Higher Education
  13. Patika Hackleman - Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor
  14. Matthew Fred - Current or Former Recipient of VR Services
  15. Consuelo Puente - Parent Training Information Center
  16. Susan Walter - State Board of Education
  17. Matthew Hillen - State Workforce Innovation Board
  18. Charlene Elder - Blind Services Planning Council
  19. Sarah Durbin - Statewide Independent Living Council
  20. Kristine A. Smith, Director - Division of Rehabilitation Services

Tony Arellano - Disability/Advocacy Group

Tony worked for over 30 years at Common Wealth Edison in the Public Relations Department and retired in 1998. During that time, he was able to earn a Masters Degree in Education as well as a second Masters Degree in Special Education and began teaching in school District 86. Tony currently serves as a substitute teacher in Special Education.

Tony has been active in his community and been appointed to State Councils since Governor Thompson's administration. He has served as chairman of the Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC), Will Grundy Independent Living Center, PARC Center, The Spanish Center, The Children's Home in Chicago, and Past Commander of American Legion Post 1080. Tony currently is chair of the city of Joliet Mayor's Advisory Committee on Disability Issues, serves on the Board of Trustees at St. Francis University in Joliet, serves on the County Veterans Assistance Committee, and works with members of the Hispanic population in Chicago with disabilities.

Homer Bizzle - Disability/Advocacy Group

Homer Bizzle has been working with the Client Assistance Program (CAP) for 8 years; first as an advocate, and for the past 3 years as a Human Services Caseworker with Illinois Department of Human Services. Homer is also a Disabled Veteran and has served in the U.S. Army as a first Lieutenant for 7 years. He graduated from Northeastern Illinois University with a Master of Arts in Inner City Studies Education & Bachelor of Arts from the Board of Governors.

Homer was appointed to serve on the Employment and Economic Opportunity for Persons with Disabilities Task Force, and is currently working with the state's Employment First Plan and Implementation Process to help break down barriers for people with disabilities to obtain employment.

Kristy Giacomini - Disability/Advocacy Group

Kristy is the Supervisor of Individual Placement and Support (IPS) for the Memorial Behavioral Health (MBH), a not-for-profit organization in Springfield. An affiliate of Memorial Health System, MBH is one of the largest providers of behavioral healthcare in central Illinois. Kristy is a certified IPS fidelity reviewer, oversees the Springfield IPS advisory council, and participates in the Emerging Leaders initiative at MBH. Kristy project manages the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Project for MBH and is working towards certification to become a Certified Occupancy Specialist.

Kristy received a Bachelors of Art at Millikin University in Human Services. She has worked in various roles at MBH since 2010 helping individuals with Mental Illness achieve their employment goals. She was a Residential Advisor, Employment Specialist, and currently performs a duel role of Lead Employment Specialist and HUD Project Manager.

Rahnee Patrick - Disability/Advocacy Group

Rahnee Patrick is the Director of Independent Living at Access Living. In 2008, the American Association of People with Disabilities recognized Rahnee as an emerging national leader. From the age of 22, Rahnee joined work on federal legislation to create an entitlement to home and community-based services for Americans with disabilities. She led the campaign to press Illinois to apply for Money Follows the Person in 2006 which increased revenue to the State and integrated disabled Illinoisans in the community. Rahnee has logged thousands of hours managing services for people deinstitutionalized from state-operated facilities and continues to oversee direct service delivery for over 1,500 Chicagoans with disabilities each year.

Her father is a retired comptroller for Peerless of America who met her Thai mother during the Viet Nam/American War. Rahnee and her husband Mike Ervin live in downtown Chicago with their two dogs, Rosita and Mister Bojangles.

Matthew Rosenberg - Disability/Advocacy Group

Matt currently works as a Vocational Facilitator at the Special Education District of Lake County where he works with youths with disabilities on job skills and assisting them with finding jobs. Matt is a graduate of Northern Illinois University with a Bachelors degree in Communications.

In addition, Matt has 5 years of experience in working with people with disabilities having previously worked at the Lake County Center for Independent Living as an Employment Advocate working with youths and adults on job skills as well as teaching people with disabilities independent living skills.

LaDonna Henson - Business, Industry, & Labor

LaDonna has worked in the rehabilitation field for over 20 years. She is currently the Director of the Evaluation and Developmental Center (EDC) for 4 years. EDC is a direct service component of the Rehabilitation Institute at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. Prior to working at EDC, LaDonna worked for 20 years in St. Louis, MO in various capacities in the rehabilitation field.

LaDonna obtained her Master's Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from SIU in Carbondale in 1994 and is a licensed clinical professional counselor and a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor in Illinois. She is the Co-President of IL APSE and works on the regional WIOA planning team in Southern Illinois.

Melynda McKeever - Business, Industry, & Labor

Melynda is the Chief Operating Officer at Peoria Production Shop (PPS), with responsibility for providing leadership, management and vision necessary to ensure the company has proper controls and procedures in place for growth and financial strength while assuring commitment to the PPS mission of hiring adults with disabilities.

Melynda volunteers in the Peoria community where she serves as the Advocates for Access Board Vice President, Committee member for the Peoria Mayor's Advisory Committee for the Disabled, volunteer for Peoria District 150 Reading Buddies program, and past member of Chuck Weaver's Leaders Change Illinois. Melynda has achieved her Six Sigma Black Belt, a Bachelor's Degree in Business Management and recently completed her MBA. In 2015, Melynda was recognized as one of Peoria's 25 Women in Leadership for her commitment to the disability community.

Prerak Mehta - Business, Industry, & Labor

Currently Prerak is a Community Liaison at Aetna Better Health of Illinois. In his 3 years since joining the team, he has held positions as a Peer Advocate and a Care Manager. Prerak is responsible for engagement with community stakeholders on various disability rights initiatives, developing community collaborations and providing community education.

Prerak graduated with a Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling from the Illinois Institute of Technology. Shortly after his graduation, he was selected as an intern in the White House summer- internship program, which was sponsored by the American Association of Persons with Disabilities. He has participated on the National Disability Rights Network. Additionally Prerak was one of 11 interns selected from the program to discuss National Disability Policy issues with President Obama.

Susan Shaw - Business, Industry, & Labor

Marco Lenis - Community Rehabilitation Program

Marco is President and CEO of Vocational Rehabilitation Management, Inc. (VRMI), an agency dedicated to facilitating opportunities for Latinos to improve their lives and their communities through education, employment, small business development, and leadership development. In partnership with local, state and federal agencies, Marco creates and manages programs to help Hispanics gain access to education, find jobs, create and grow businesses, and learn how to become more effective advocates for themselves, their families and their communities. In addition to helping people with language and cultural differences navigate their way in the United States, Marco works with people with disabilities to find jobs and help employers understand how to welcome the contributions of people with different backgrounds and abilities.

Marco is a passionate advocate for small business development and has advised more than 100 Hispanic small business owners in Illinois. He created and currently directs the NIU Latino Business Accelerator Program in partnership with the university's Regional Development Institute. In addition, he is an actively engaged community leader and serves on numerous boards of directors including: Swedish American Health System and Foundation, First Northern Credit Union and the Burpee Museum. Statewide, Marco is chairman of the Hispanic Advisory Council of the Illinois Department of Human Services/Division of Rehabilitation Services, a founding board member of the Illinois Association of Agencies and Community Organizations for Migrant Advocacy (IAACOMA), and a member of the IDPH Hospital Report Card & Consumer Guide to Health Care.

Leslie Jenkins - Client Assistance Program

Leslie has been working with the Client Assistance Program (CAP) for 3 years in the role of advocate and as the temporary manager following the previous manager's retirement. CAP's goal is to work with customers and with DRS staff to resolve problems at the lowest possible level. Prior to joining CAP Leslie was a Child Welfare Specialist for 20 years working with children and families in foster care and adoption. She advocated for children and adolescents, first as a case manager for children with social, emotional, and behavioral issues assuring that their needs were met within the home, school, and social environments; and later as a licensing representative recruiting and preparing foster/adoptive homes to meet the challenges of caring for foster/adoptive children.

Working within the child welfare system parallels the work in her move to the Department of Human Services working with people with disabilities. She often times accessed rehabilitative services, especially the youth transition programs, due to the number of children in foster care with disabilities.

Bryan Dallas - Secondary or Higher Education

Bryan, Ph.D., CRC, LPC is an Assistant Professor of Rehabilitation Counseling and Co-Coordinator of the Rehabilitation Counseling program at Northern Illinois University. He earned his Ph.D. in Rehabilitation Education from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.

Dr. Dallas' experience involves providing disability-supports for college students with disabilities and vocational evaluation for injured workers. As a researcher, he studies academic outcomes of college students with disabilities, the impact of assistive technology, and universal design instructional methods. Dr. Dallas is a certified rehabilitation counselor and licensed professional counselor. Additionally, he serves as a reviewer for the Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability.

Patika Hackleman - Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor

Patika is a Senior Rehabilitation Counselor in the Belleville office and began her career with DHS at Alton Mental Health Center as an Office Associate in 2007. While working at Alton Mental Health Center, she earned her Masters Degree in Professional Counseling. She went on to work as a Human Services Caseworker in Granite City for a very short period of time before receiving the promotion to Rehabilitation Counselor Trainee with DRS in December 2010.

Prior to earning her Masters Degree, Patika was a case manager for Children's Home + Aid (aka, CHASI) under the Unified Delinquency Intervention Services (UDIS) Program, where she primarily worked with children and young adults who were involved in the Illinois Juvenile Justice System.

Matthew Fred - Current or Former Recipient of VR Services

Matthew works at the Southern Illinois Center for Independent Living (SICIL). He has seven 7 years of experience working with people disabilities as an Independent Living Specialist and 5 years as the PA Coordinator. He regularly works with Disabled Student Services counseling students as they transition from high school to college. Matthew received his Bachelor Degree in Psychology with a minor in Philosophy, and a Masters in Rehabilitation Counseling from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.

Consuelo Puente - Parent Training Information Center

Consuelo Puente is an attorney currently working for Family Resource Center on Disabilities (FRCD) as their Bilingual Parent Trainer. Working for FRCD, Consuelo has incorporated active learning strategies in all her presentations on Special Education and has certified over a hundred Spanish-speaking parents as IEP Parent Support Specialists.

Consuelo is known for her knowledge on the rights of immigrant students and is the mother of two adult sons on the Autism Spectrum. As such, she understands the challenges faced by families who have children with special needs and shares that her sons guide and inspire all she does.

Susan Walter - State Board of Education

Susan is the Statewide Transition Consultant for the Illinois State Board of Education, Special Education Services Division. She has worked in this capacity since September, 2007. Prior to this position, she was the Training and Technical Assistance Coordinator for the Transition Outreach Training for Adult Living Project (TOTAL) and the Illinois Systems Change Transition Project; both of which were federal secondary transition grants administered by the Illinois State Board of Education.

Over the past 15 years, she has developed a variety of transition-related training materials including person-centered planning, self-determination, transition-focused IEP's and collaborative teaming and has traveled around the state to reach educators, parents, students and community providers. Susan has presented at numerous workshops and conferences at the local, regional and national level and has also authored or co-authored several articles focused on secondary transition.

Matthew Hillen - State Workforce Innovation Board

Matt is the Special Populations Manager for the Office of Employment and Training at the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. As Illinois' administrative entity for WIOA Title I services, the Department of Commerce is a dedicated partner in the WIOA vision laid out in conjunction with the Division of Rehabilitation Services and the other Core Partner agencies under WIOA.

Matt has spent 14 years in the field of workforce development in various capacities, helping jobseekers find successful employment outcomes. He also has experience working in both inpatient mental health and alternative school settings.

Charlene Elder - Blind Services Planning Council

Sarah Durbin - Statewide Independent Living Council

Sarah Durbin is the Executive Director of the Statewide Independent Living Council. Created under Title VII of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the SILC is a not-for-profit statewide planning organization. The SILC's mission is to provide leadership, research, planning and education required to support independent living services in Illinois. The SILC's activities are guided by its three-year state plan for independent living, which it develops in conjunction with the Centers for Independent Living in Illinois.

For over 20 years, Sarah has been a part of the independent living movement including Director of Public Policy and Advocacy at Paraquad in St. Louis; Program Manager of Community Supports at Access Living in Chicago; and over 10 years as Executive Director of the Northwestern Illinois Center for Independent Living in Rock Falls. Sarah also was the Assistant Director for Administration at the Great Lakes ADA Center and had 10 years of leadership responsibility with three different Girl Scout Councils.

Sarah has a fierce commitment to disability rights and achieving excellence based on a mission.

Kristine A. Smith, Director - Division of Rehabilitation Services

Kris is serving as the Department of Human Services, Division of Rehabilitation Services (DHS/DRS) Director. Kris has been a devoted civil servant of the State of Illinois for the past 25 years and has previously served as the interim director and the associate director of DRS. She was selected as one of two individuals by the Illinois Vocational Rehabilitation Administration to participate in a two-year Academy for Executive Leadership and most recently has served as DRS' administrator of the Community Reintegration Program and also as administrator of the Vocational Rehabilitation support unit. Kris is a graduate of the Illinois State University with a Bachelor's in Education, specializing in Deafness/Hard of Hearing.