Kerri E. Neifeld, Commissioner
Kerri Neifeld serves as the Commissioner of the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) following her nomination as Commissioner by Governor Kathy Hochul in early November of 2021. Prior to her nomination, Kerri most recently served as Assistant Secretary for Human Services & Mental Hygiene in the governor's office.
Before working in the governor’s office, Kerri was Assistant Deputy Commissioner at the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) where she managed the Division of Shelter Oversight and Compliance. Kerri joined OTDA as Special Assistant to the Deputy Commissioner while serving as an Excelsior Service Fellow, before being promoted to Assistant Deputy Commissioner.
Prior to joining the Excelsior Service Fellowship Program, Kerri was a Fellow on Women & Public Policy at Rockefeller College's Center for Women in Government & Civil Society. A passionate advocate for others, Kerri also worked as a Project Manager at the Mental Health Association of Columbia-Greene Counties, a Child Protective Services Caseworker and a Foster Care Caseworker as well as a Youth Care Worker at WAIT House Homeless Youth Shelter. Kerri plans to use her years of public service experience to inform new and innovative ways to support and serve people with developmental disabilities.
Kerri holds a B.A. from Elmira College and an M.S.W. from the University at Albany School of Social Welfare.
Willow Baer, Executive Deputy Commissioner
Willow returns to OPWDD from an interim position as Assistant Counsel to the Governor and from her role as Deputy Commissioner and General Counsel at the New York State Office of Children and Family Services. Prior to working with OCFS, Willow spent six years at OPWDD, most recently serving as Deputy Commissioner and General Counsel.
Willow initially joined OPWDD in 2015 as an Associate Counsel, tasked with supervising the Medicaid Fair Hearings unit and reshaping the agency's due process notification and hearing procedures. In 2016, she was promoted to Deputy Counsel for Service Delivery and Program Compliance, where she was responsible for providing legal advice and oversight on all matters related to eligibility for and the provision of Medicaid and state-funded service delivery. She was promoted to Deputy Commissioner and General Counsel in 2018 where she worked closely with external stakeholders as well as OPWDD and Executive Chamber leadership to advance OPWDD's priorities.
Before coming to OPWDD, Willow served in the Office of General Counsel at the NYS Justice Center and served as a County Attorney for a number of years prior to that.
Willow has spent much of her career working to ensure that people with developmental disabilities and their families are afforded the best service system possible to meet their wants and needs and we know she will continue to do so as Executive Deputy Commissioner.
Eileen Haynes, Deputy Commissioner & General Counsel
Eileen M. Haynes oversees the Office of General Counsel which provides legal guidance and support to the Commissioner, Executive leadership and OPWDD staff on the myriad of issues arising from the delivery of supports and services to individuals with developmental disabilities. Issues include litigation, employment and personnel concerns, consent to treatment, certification/decertification and regulatory compliance of not-for-profit providers, eligibility for services, retention in secure facilities, corporate governance, community site selection, guardianships and special needs trusts and Medicaid interpretation/compliance. Counsel's Office also coordinates OPWDD’s legislative and regulatory programs, working with the Governor's Office and the Legislature on bills and regulations to support OPWDD’s mission.
Adrienne Mazeau, Deputy Commissioner of Administration
Adrienne V. Mazeau serves as the Deputy Commissioner for Administration for OPWDD which includes oversight of Human Resources and Labor Management, Facility Operation and Maintenance, Emergency Services, Training and Professional Development and Workforce Policy and Innovation.
Adrienne has 20 years of New York State government experience. She began her career at the NYS Assembly Ways and Mean Committee as a legislative analyst and later moved to the Division of Budget where she worked within the health area for over a decade. Most recently, Adrienne was part of the Department of Health's Executive Team and served as the Deputy Director for the Office of Public Health. Adrienne was a key leader in the Department's COVID-19 response efforts.
Adrienne holds a Master of Public Administration degree from SUNY Albany's Rockefeller College, a Bachelor of Arts degree from Villanova University and a graduate certificate in Public Management from Cornell University.
Abiba Kindo, Deputy Commissioner of Service Delivery
Abiba Kindo serves as the Deputy Commissioner for the Division of Service Access, Program Implementation and Stakeholder Support (Regional Office). The Division is organized into two central office-based Bureaus that direct and oversee major statewide activities (Service Access and Program Implementation) and one Bureau that is regionally based with Central Office oversight and is responsible for day to day operations and implementation of statewide initiatives. Program activities and operations are carried out through a network of five Regional Offices, one Central Office and Thirteen district offices.
The division has a key role and is responsible for assisting individuals and their families with accessing disability services while assuring equity, diversity inclusion, fairness and sustainability, ensuring an adequate provider network, and educating individuals, families, providers, and stakeholders on OPWDD services and initiatives.
Prior to this current role, Abiba served as the Associate Deputy Commissioner for the regional offices at OPWDD. Before joining state services in 2014, Abiba worked in the voluntary sector where she held several executive and leadership positions. Abiba has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in Forensic Psychology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Jill Pettinger, Deputy Commissioner of Statewide Services
Dr. Jill Pettinger is OPWDD’s Deputy Commissioner of Statewide Services. In this position, she is responsible for providing leadership, direction, and oversight to the Division of Statewide Services. Statewide Services is currently comprised of 9 Bureaus encompassing Research and Data Analytics, Health Services, Intensive (Forensic) Treatment Services, Assessment Oversight and Coordination, Behavioral Services, Statewide Clinical Programs, Clinical Project Management, Technical Support, and Service Allocation, Research and Review, as well as the Institute for Basic Research. Dr. Pettinger and her staff facilitate and oversee multiple projects and initiatives that directly impact the mission and vision of OPWDD which has at its core the goal of helping individuals with developmental disabilities lead richer lives.
Before assuming her current position, Dr. Pettinger served as the Deputy Commissioner of State Operations & Statewide Services in the Division of Service Delivery from June 2016 through May 2022, the Assistant Deputy Commissioner of OPWDD’s Statewide Services from July 2012 through May 2016, the Assistant Commissioner for OPWDD’s Bureau of Behavioral and Clinical Solutions from August 2007 through July 2012 and was the Chief Psychologist for OPWDD from January 2003 through August 2007. Dr. Pettinger worked as a licensed psychologist at the Capital District DDSO, a regional office of OPWDD from 2001 through 2003. She also served as the Clinical Assistant Director of Psychology at the Center for the Disabled and as a licensed psychologist for the Schoharie County ARC, not-for-profit agencies providing services to persons with developmental disabilities in the Capital District area. She has worked in private practice and served as an Adjunct Professor at the University at Albany, Sage College Graduate School, the College of Saint Rose and Hudson Valley Community College.
Dr. Pettinger is a graduate of the University at Albany (Psy.D. 1995, M.S. 1991) and St. John Fisher College (B.A. 1990).
John Barbuto, Deputy Commissioner of State Operations
As Deputy Commissioner of the Division of State Operations, Dr. John Barbuto leads all of OPWDD’s State Operated Residential and Day Programs, Clinics and other related services. This portfolio includes providing guidance and oversight to over 1,000 state operated programs and over 12,000 staff.
Dr. Barbuto brings broad leadership skills and experience in human services, healthcare and research fields to this critical position within the agency. He began his career providing direct care in residential services for children. He then transitioned to supervising day treatment services and managing multiple residential programs in Capital District OPWDD provider agencies for over 15 years. Upon completion of master’s degrees in public administration and social work at the University at Albany, he also provided clinical services and consultation to those provider agencies. Later, Dr. Barbuto moved to the Stratton VA Medical Center, where he applied his clinical and management skills to supporting Veterans with serious mental illness, homelessness and geriatric care needs. He served as the Director of Operations for research in the last ten years of his tenure at the VA Medical Center. During this time, he also conducted research and completed his Ph.D. in Social Work, partnered in research projects and publications, and taught as an adjunct lecturer and field instructor at the University at Albany’s School of Social Welfare. John has also been a psychotherapist in private practice for over 20 years, locally.
Dr. Barbuto began his career at OPWDD in January of 2018 and served as the Assistant Deputy Commissioner of Statewide Services until December of 2020 when he transitioned to overseeing both Statewide Services and State Operations as Associate Commissioner. Dr. Barbuto’s knowledge of direct operations, certified residential, clinic and day program management, labor management, and research have allowed him to successfully fill critical roles at OPWDD formerly in Statewide Services and now in State Operations.
Tamika Black, Deputy Commissioner of Data Strategy & Management
Tamika Black serves as Deputy Commissioner and Chief Data Officer for OPWDD and oversees the Division of Data Strategy and Management. Tamika’s current responsibilities include promoting innovation and a data-driven approach toward achieving positive outcomes for people with disabilities. Her contributions encompass building OPWDD’s data and IT strategy, modernizing IT infrastructure, establishing data governance processes and public reporting, and increasing transparency for individuals and families around quality measurement and benchmarks. Tamika has had a 17-year career in public service with a focus on finance and budgeting, performance improvement and strategic planning, and she continues her commitment to mission driven organizations. Prior to leading her current Division, Tamika served as the Deputy Commissioner and Deputy Director for OPWDD’s Division of Quality Improvement and she has worked for the NYS Department of Health, NYS Division of the Budget Executive Department, and the City University of New York. Tamika received her doctoral degree in Public Administration and Policy from the University at Albany. Her areas of study included organizational behavior and theory, government implementation and accountability, and non-profit/public sector management. She received her master’s degree in Public Administration from Baruch College and a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from New York University.
Katherine Marlay, Deputy Commissioner of Policy & Program Development
As Deputy Commissioner, Katherine (Kate) Marlay, leads the Division of Policy and Program Development which administers a range of ongoing policy development activities related to OPWDD’s system of supports and services.
Serving as a leading negotiator and point of contact with the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and NYS Department of Health (DOH) for Medicaid policy and Waiver policy; Kate ensures critical funding, while developing administrative infrastructure with federal and state partners- to provide long-term supports and services for approximately 100,000 New Yorkers with developmental disabilities.
Kate has been executing policy guidance for nearly 30 years with OPWDD following graduation from a dual master’s program; obtaining a Master of Arts degree from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Public Affairs degree from the Lyndon Baines Johnson School of Public Affairs, in Austin, Texas.
Megan O'Connor-Hebert, Deputy Commissioner of Quality Improvement
Megan O’Connor-Hebert has recently returned to OPWDD as Deputy Commissioner for the Division of Quality Improvement. In this role, she oversees the Bureau of Program Certification, Incident Management Unit, Continuous Quality Improvement Unit and the Data Analysis and Evaluation Team. Megan began her career as a direct support professional and her career has included progressive leadership positions in the Developmental Disabilities field. Megan has over 20 years’ experience in the not-for-profit sector and 10 years in government leadership at both the NYS Commission on Quality of Care as well as OPWDD. Most recently, Megan served as Chief Administrative Officer for a Care Coordination Organization. Megan received her BA in Psychology at Siena College and her Master’s in Social Work from the University of Albany. Megan has served on various boards through the years. Megan is excited to be back at OPWDD as part of the Leadership team and looks forward to advancing the quality strategy ensuring that New Yorkers with developmental disabilities receive quality supports and services to live fulfilling lives.
Kevin M. Valenchis, Deputy Commissioner of Fiscal Policy and Management
Kevin currently serves as Deputy Commissioner of OPWDD’s Division of Fiscal Policy and Management. In this capacity, he is primarily responsible for budgeting, rate setting policy and other fiscal matters. Kevin joined the OPWDD management team in 2013. Prior to his appointment at OPWDD, he served with the Division of Budget’s Mental Hygiene Unit for close to 15 years where he was responsible for revenue management, and the OPWDD, DDPC and OASAS budgets. Kevin received a Master of Public Administration from Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs in 1998, and a Bachelor of Arts, Political Science, from the State University of New York, College at Oswego, in 1996.”
Jennifer M. O’Sullivan, Director of Communications
As the Director of Communications, Jennifer Mauer O’Sullivan is a senior advisor to the commissioner and liaison to the Governor's office. Jennifer oversees internal and external communications, marketing, digital and social media, press inquiries, messaging, event coordination, correspondence, photography, video production and the OPWDD Infoline. Jennifer has also served as Director of Communications for Kathy Hochul when she was Lieutenant Governor, Interim Director of Communications for current Lieutenant Governor Antonio Delgado and the Director of Communications at the New York Lottery. She left state service for several years from 2007-2014 to join the NY Daily News as Director of Communications in NYC before returning to Albany.
Jennifer graduated from the State University of New York at Albany with a Bachelor's degree in American History and attended New York University’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies for Digital Media Marketing. Jennifer is also a 2021 graduate of the NYS Leadership Institute program at SUNY Albany’s Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy and has received formal Crisis Communication training from Helio Fred Garcia of Logos Consulting Group.
Gregory Roberts, Director of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs
Greg Roberts has been OPWDD’s Director of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs since 2012. The Intergovernmental and Legislative Affairs Office serves as the point of contact for elected officials, legislative staff, government agencies, and lobbyists/advocacy groups. The unit also represents OPWDD's interests before the New York State Legislature, tracks legislative initiatives, and keeps the OPWDD leadership team apprised of current events. The Intergovernmental and Legislative Affairs team oversees OPWDD’s compliance with the National Voter Registration Act, assists self-advocates, and supports the New York State Autism Spectrum Awareness Board.
Prior to coming to OPWDD, Greg worked for the New York State Senate as a Program Director in Majority Program and Counsel Office and as a Government Relations Representative for the New York State School Boards Association. Greg has a Masters’ Degree in Public Administration and a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Political Science from Michigan State University.
Allison McCarthy, Director of Strategic Initiatives
Allison McCarthy oversees the Office of Strategic Initiatives which supports OPWDD’s commitment to partnering with stakeholders to engage in the agencies’ strategic planning process. In her role, Allison leads the facilitation of both internal and external engagement, organization, and evaluation of the agency’s strategic initiatives to ensure that priorities connect to, inform, and result in the agency’s strategic vision, goals, and objectives being reached.
Allison has nearly two decades of experience working throughout the OPWDD organization and has spent over a decade supporting the Division of Planning and Policy Development. She entered the state workforce through the Public Management Intern (PMI) program in 2000.
Allison holds a Masters of Public Administration from West Virginia University, as well as a Bachelor of Arts from Hobart and William Smith Colleges.
Hirah Mir, Chief Diversity Officer
Dr. Hirah Mir serves as the Chief Diversity Officer and Director of OPWDD’s Executive Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). Dr. Mir oversees the DEI Office in the following areas: language access, community engagement, equity policy, workforce support and outcomes, learning and engagement, grants and research, data analytics, and program evaluation.
Dr. Mir has a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology and Methodology from the University at Albany/State University of New York and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Hunter College. Dr. Mir has more than 10 years of experience in research and statistics. She focused her doctoral research on the ethnic identity of children of immigrants and how factors such as family cohesion and discrimination impact a person’s development. Her passion for equity comes from her experience being unhoused and receiving section 8 housing, food stamps, and other important services for families living in poverty.
Dr. Mir has been with OPWDD for more than five years. As a research scientist in the OPWDD Division of Data Strategy and Management, she was responsible for agency-wide research agenda and served as the state coordinator of the National Core Indicators In-Person and State of the Workforce Surveys. Dr. Mir also helped oversee the Regional Centers for Workforce Transformation to build the competency and capacity of the direct support workforce. She is one of the founders of the NYS Community of Practice on Cultural and Linguistic Competence in Developmental Disabilities.
Michael Ridley, Chief Information Officer
Michael Ridley oversees all the technology-based investments, and IT infrastructure modernization efforts to support the mission and enable the strategic plan laid out by the Commissioner and executive leadership. These modernization efforts will serve to create a data-driven approach to enabling, empowering, and maximizing all service areas of the agency.
Michael has a 25-year career with the NYS government serving in multiple executive-level positions in high technology policy, planning, and deployment. His state career has spanned many governmental entities including working in the NYS Legislature, the Science and Technology Foundation (NYSTAR), the NYS Department of Economic Development, and most recently, the NYS Department of Health where he served as the Director of Operations for the New York State of Health, Health Plan Marketplace (NYSOH). In addition, he has served in many federal and state advisory capacities such as being a member of the NYS CIO Advisory Council, NYS Broadband Council, and was Governor Paterson’s appointment to represent NYS in the FCC’s Emergency Response Interoperability Center’s technical advisory committee.
Michael holds a Master of Science from the College of Saint Rose in Computer Information Systems, a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Utica College of Syracuse University in Public Administration, and an Associates in Science from Mohawk Valley Community College.
Rachel Baker, Senior Advisor to the Commissioner
Rachel serves as Senior Advisor to the Commissioner at OPWDD. Rachel is responsible for advancing the Commissioner’s priorities and managing the implementation of strategic initiatives within the agency and externally, and advising the Commissioner and Executive Leadership on policy, operations, and day-to-day management of the Commissioner’s Office.
Prior to joining OPWDD Rachel worked for the New York State Executive Chamber for four years, where she most recently served as the Assistant Secretary for Health. In this role, she was responsible for managing cross agency and interagency initiatives, budget negotiation and implementation, State of the State development and implementation, and stakeholder communications and outreach. Rachel was with the Executive Chamber's State Operations Health Team throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and assisted in the management of COVID-19 policy and operations, including coordinating with the state’s leading epidemiologists and clinical experts to provide guidance on best practices for COVID-19.
Rachel has a Masters in Public Administration from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University and began her State career as an Excelsior Service Fellow on the Executive Chamber's Health and Human Services team.
Deb Ellis, Senior Advisor for Operations
As the Senior Advisor for Operations, Deb supports the Executive Deputy Commissioner in coordinating and advancing large agency projects and oversight of agency operations.
Deb has been dedicated to helping people with developmental disabilities and their families for nearly 20 years in a number of roles at OPWDD including: Statewide Field Office Operations Director for OPWDD’s Division of Service Access, Program Implementation and Stakeholder Support, Chief Administrative Officer in the Division of Administration, Director of both the Office of Agency Planning and Coordination and the Office of Advocacy Services, Director of Transition and Integrated Supports in the Division of Service Delivery, and supervisory roles in both the Division of Person-Centered Supports-Waiver Unit and the Division of Enterprise Solutions-Capital Financing Services.
She is a graduate of Siena College in Loudonville and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration.