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Advocacy

Celebrating Disability Employment Success

Partners Health Plan members are sharing their employment journey stories to elevate disability employment awareness.  These stories describe the diverse experiences of people with disabilities and the employers that are benefiting from the dedication these talented individuals bring to their professional roles.

Did you know that one in four individuals in the U.S. have some type of disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)?  Did you know the employment rate for a New Yorker with a disability (age 18 – 64) is 31.2% compared to 72% for a person without a disability, resulting in a gap of 40.8% according to New York State (click here)?  The COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately affected many who have already faced significant barriers to employment, compounding their economic hardships.

We must use our voices and advocate for creating more accessible and inclusive workplaces by becoming informed on the value of hiring people with disabilities.

 A person with a disability recently summed it up the best by stating, “my disabilities do not define me.  My abilities do.”

Please join us in widening the lens by elevating awareness on what needs to be done to remove barriers in the workplace, so individuals who have a disability have the opportunity to access meaningful and well-paying jobs.  Do you know an organization that is moving the dial on disability employment by removing barriers?

DSP Advocacy Phone Campaign

Act Now!

DSP Advocacy Phone Campaign

For the past two years, New York State has not invested in direct care staff who work for nonprofit agencies (just those who work in State operated facilities).  Individuals with IDD and their families, our members, need the individuals they depend upon to earn a living wage. The system is in crisis! 

A phone campaign is underway for advocates to call Governor Hochul and tell her to invest in people with IDD by making DSPs who work in nonprofit agencies a budget priority.  

Please help elevate awareness! Follow these steps:

STEP 1: Call Governor Hochul's office at: 518-474-8390, press 3, then press 2 to speak to a person or 1 to leave a message.

STEP 2: Message script:

My name is (NAME) from (your city/town) and I am (a person IDD/family member of a person with IDD/friend of a person with IDD). I am calling to urge Governor Hochul to include money in the Executive budget proposal for Direct Care professionals who support people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD). These are essential workers for the health, safety, and quality of life for people with IDD. They need a living wage as they barely earn above the minimum wage and are leaving their employment to find work to support their families. Our state has a terrible worker shortage because NY doesn’t pay a living wage for non-profit Direct Care Professionals.  We need Gov Hochul to include a wage increase for Direct Care Professionals who work for NON-PROFIT IDD PROVIDERS in her Executive Budget proposal. Thank you!

STEP 3: When you've made your phone call, please enter in this tracking form: Record your participation in Call The Governor Campaign (google.com)

Margaret’s Employment Story

Margaret’s Employment Story

Meet Margaret! Partners Health Plan Member, Margaret, began working for the Department of Labor during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, after working for the Department of Transportation for many years.  This is her employment story told by her dedicated Care Manager, Barbara!

What can I tell you about Margaret?  She is joy personified and she lives her best life every day.  Margaret recently turned 70 but she is evergreen.  Margaret works 3 days a week at the NYS Department of Labor (DOL), where she does a fantastic job.  Margaret was brave enough to start her job at the DOL during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

She was not worried.  In fact, she was excited to work more hours and have a set schedule. Margaret is proud of her job and has a phenomenal work ethic and independence.  She doesn’t allow herself to be held back and always exceeds expectations.  Margaret enthusiastically approaches each task with a spring in her step and a smile on her face.   

Prior to COVID, Margaret worked with an entire crew at the Department of Transportation (DOT) in Garden City for many years, so when she began at the DOL, she had to learn new skills, including how to maneuver a commercial Rubbermaid cleaners’ cart in and out of a small elevator before the door shuts, and in and out of small office doors.  Margaret also had to learn what products and supplies were necessary to do the job.  Once her job coach shadowed her throughout the day, now she only meets with him at the end of her shift to go home.  Margaret has a big smile every day that reflects the pride and sense of accomplishment she feels about herself and the job.   

Margaret also knows that her job is important and that she needs to maintain her focus throughout the day.  She is well aware of her need to continually practice COVID protocols while she is at work.  She understands the importance of remaining safe while she cleans high-touch surfaces, in high-traffic areas.  No matter what, Margaret is unfailingly friendly and polite.  She knows to always knock on doors when entering offices and conference rooms.  Margaret appreciates the other employees and has stated that they are always nice to her.  However, she enjoys when she can work alone, where she can be found cleaning while she sings and dances to her theme song, the Donna Summer classic, “She Works Hard for the Money” and if you ask her about her job, she’ll tell you:  “I don’t just like my job, I Iove my job.” 

Members Only Event: Partners Health Plan (PHP) Seeks to Overcome Dental Health Disparities For Individuals with IDD

Members Only Event: Partners Health Plan (PHP) Seeks to Overcome Dental Health Disparities For Individuals with IDD

Specialized Dental Care for those with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) Comes to Metro NY.

January 9, 2023 — New York
Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) are known to have poorer oral/dental health than people without IDD. Studies show that people with IDD have 30% more untreated cavities, 50% more missing teeth, and 150% more gum disease.

The biggest reason for this health disparity is access to oral health care for children and adults with IDD: lack of preventive and regular care, including management of secondary medical conditions that are related to oral health, leads to more significant oral health problems. Wait times for IDD specialized services can be as long as a year at practices and dental school programs that offer them.

But Partners Health Plan (PHP), a NY-based health plan that is exclusively dedicated to supporting the health and well-being of individuals with IDD, is committed to ensuring the oral health of its members.

“Improving access to dental care for our community of service in New York State is mission-critical,” added Steven Merahn, MD, Medical Director, Partners Health Plan. “Our overarching goal is to improve the quality of life of our members and the relationship between oral health and overall well-being is well established.”

“Our overarching goal is to improve the quality of life of our members and the relationship between oral health and overall well-being is well established.”

Steven Merahn, MD, Medical Director, Partners Health Plan.


To achieve this goal, PHP has partnered with Solvere Health to deploy specialized IDD mobile dental clinics at select-day service locations in Metro New York to reduce travel demands. Solvere Health is a company that specializes in the delivery of high-quality clinical services through group health events via mobile medical units or pop-up clinics to underserved populations. Individuals with IDD may struggle with the sights, sounds and experiences encountered during dental care, and the PHP-Solvere Dental Health Program will conduct specialized desensitization sessions to prepare individuals for the dental care experience and mobile clinic environments. The mobile dental units are also fully accessible for individuals with mobility challenges.

“Expanding the availability of quality healthcare services to underserved communities is central to Solvere Health's mission. We view the collaboration with Partner Health Plan as a way to make quality dental care accessible to persons with I/DD,” stated Edward Lorch, CEO, Solvere Health, “Our mobile clinics offer a solution that is empathetic and considerate. We factor in the patient population's comfort (including desensitization), convenience, mobility, and communication. When engineering and staffing the mobile clinic, we understand that taking a holistic view of the patient leads to a positive oral healthcare experience and repeat preventative care.”

“This mobile dental clinic initiative is a very exciting opportunity as it will open access to oral healthcare,” noted Rita Marie Bilello, DDS, CEO, and former Dental Director of Metro Community Health Centers. “This new dental care model will bridge a much-needed gap for Partners Health Plan (PHP) members, all adults with IDD, who have been unable to access routine preventative oral health care services. Mobilizing dental services will begin to address some of the access issues and will allow for PHP to better assist in getting their members the oral care that they need.”

The first mobile dental clinic for PHP members is scheduled at the PHP corporate headquarters located at 2500 Halsey Street in the Bronx on Saturday, February 18, 2023. Future mobile health clinic locations will include locations in the New York City, Long Island (Nassau and Suffolk counties), Rockland County, and Westchester County where PHP operates. PHP welcomes partnerships with local agencies to serve as destination sites for a mobile clinic.

For more information please contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

News organizations that want to attend/cover the first clinic should reach out to Elizabeth Wales, Assistant Vice President, Strategic Communications at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at 518-410-5629.

About Partners Health Plan
Partners Health Plan (PHP) is the first-in-the-nation, provider-led managed care organization that fully integrates Medicare and Medicaid for individuals 21 years and older with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD), so they have the most complete care package. PHP provides person-centered care for whole-person wellness addressing the physical, behavioral, and social needs of individuals to assist them in living a quality life. The plan operates in 4 New York State regions (nine downstate counties): New York City, Long Island (Nassau and Suffolk counties), Rockland County, and Westchester County. For more information, visit www.phpcares.org.

About Solvere Health
Working with state and federal, institutional, and corporate partners, Solvere Health brings a business discipline to health challenges across the United States through onsite, mobile, and digital healthcare solutions. Deploying a team of highly motivated, accountable problem solvers, we stand up sustainable, end-to-end programs in rapid response to group health events, disaster relief, and underserved rural communities, via onsite pop-ups, mobile clinics, and strategically placed brick-and-mortar locations. Our efficient approach combines exacting strategic planning, comprehensive compliance management, unparalleled logistics, state-of-the-art mobile healthcare technology, and emerging digital health applications.

NYC FAIR Town Hall On November 9, 2023

NYC FAIR Town Hall On November 9, 2023:
What Is A Life Plan? What Is It For?

NYC FAIR is hosting a virtual Town Hall on Thursday, 11.9 at 7:00 PM via Zoom. Guest speakers include:

  • Becki Lifford, Assistant Director, Office of Strategic Initiatives, OPWDD
  • Cathy Varano, Chief Administrative Officer, Care Design NY
  • Randy Bolton, Executive Committee, NYC FAIR

Register to attend and learn more about what a Life Plan is, what it includes, and why it’s helpful. Submit any questions in advance via the online registration form or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The join link will be emailed ahead of the meeting.

Learn More | Register

Partners Health Plan is Featured Guest on MediSked Podcast

Partners Health Plan is Featured Guest on MediSked Podcast

Partners Health Plan was a featured MediSked Podcast guest on January 4, 2023,. The podcast entitled, “Inclusion Benefits All-- The Case for Employing Neurodiverse Individuals” delivered important information on the benefits of hiring individuals with disabilities. Karleen Haines, Chief of Member Relations & Advocacy in the podcast’s Q&A delivered key points on the value of eliminating barriers and diversifying the workforce, especially if the hiring goals are embedded in the organization’s mission.

Listeners are asked thought provoking questions such as, “What type of support do I need to provide individuals, so they are successful? What are the positive outcomes when employing people with a disability? How are we writing the job descriptions and recruiting to ensure we have a diverse candidate pool?”

PHP Member, Ackeem Duggan, shared his personal employment journey. We learn about his challenges and ultimate rewards of financial gain, stability, independence, professional, and personal growth, community inclusion and belonging, making new friends, and experiencing improved mental health and personal well-being.

The program emphasizes that successful employment outcomes are rooted in advocacy. This episode is a testament to effective care management and coordination to assist individuals with disabilities live their best lives. Care Managers, who are fierce advocates for the individuals they support, ensure the necessary supports and services are in place. Does an individual have a job coach who can help them make meaningful connections and provide training and onboarding support?

Ackeem describes how those pieces and previous successes were in place for him. Today, he is happy and successful working for the NYPD Director of Community Affairs.

 Listen to this episode and let us know what you think! Ep. 10: Inclusion Benefits All – The Case for Employing Neurodiverse Individuals - MediSked, LLC

Partners Health Plan Presents at The Arc National convention

Partners Health Plan Presents at The Arc National Convention

Inclusion Benefits All: An Employment Success Story

Partners Health Plan's Cheif of Member Relations and Advocacy, Karleen M. Haines, along with PHP member Ackeem, were asked to present at the Arc’s National Convention “Inclusion Benefits All: An Employment Success Story.
They shared how Ackeem seeks to continue his successful path to independence and community involvement and how he received support and gained the confidence to seize opportunities or create them where they did not exist. They also looked at the value of hiring an inclusive workforce, the country’s general employment outlook, and how social determinants of health and access to care are crucial in order to grow, work, and live a fulfilling life.

Learning Objectives:

  • The business case for inclusion of employees with IDD and neurodiversity in the workplace
  • How circle of support teams can advocate in the current state of employment for those with disabilities
  • A personal story of employment success and growth, of a talented and determined individual

Partners Health Plan Presents: Leadership Speaking Engagements

Partners Health Plan Presents:
Leadership Speaking Engagements 

Steven Merahn, MD, Medical Director, present "Value and Outcomes in IDD Care: A Radical Proposal” at the NY Alliance Annual Conference on April 19, 2023. The presentation focused on new models for outcomes measurement and value of services provided to the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) community. Dr. Merahn explored how to drive meaningful impact for individuals with IDD, supporting their efforts to fully participate (emotionally, socially, economically) and succeed as active, productive members of family and community.

Dr. Steven Merahn also presented on Autism Outcomes at the annual meeting of the Council of Autism Service Providers (CASP) in Tampa, FL on April 23, 2023. Dr. Merahn’s “Radical Proposal” engaged participants in a discussion about the ongoing challenges of defining the value of services provided to children with autism and how to best measure them. The goal is to look beyond autism symptoms and help map a plan for children with autism across their lifespan. CASP is an international trade association of autism service provider organizations focused on delivering quality, safe and effective care.   

Partners Health Plan Presents: Leadership Speaking Engagements at the NY Alliance Annual Conference

Partners Health Plan Presents: Leadership Speaking Engagements at the NY Alliance Annual Conference

On April 19, Karleen Haines, Chief of Member Relations and Advocacy with PHP member, Ackeem Duggan, presented, “Inclusion Benefits All: An Employment Journey," at the NY Alliance Annual Conference. An inspiring employment journey of an individual to achieve independence and community involvement and how advocacy paved his bright future of employment and other neurodiverse individuals in the country and in New York.

Recruiting, hiring, and maintaining a workforce inclusive for those with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) form the bedrock of this presentation. 

Ackeem works for the New York City Police Department as the Director of Community Affairs Bureau. LEARN MOREabout Ackeem's employment story.

PHP Expands Dental Services to Members With Mobile Clinics

PHP Expands Dental Services to Members With Mobile Clinics

Partners Health Plan (PHP) has expanded dental services to its members, adults (21 years and older) with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD). Through its nonprofit, non-traditional tailored IDD care model, PHP partnered with Solvere Health to bring mobile dental clinics to members, making oral care accessible.

On Saturday, May 6, the Institutes of Applied Human Dynamics (iAHD) hosted the mobile dental clinic at their Bainbridge dayhab location. PHP members were treated by oral health care providers with specific expertise related to individuals with IDD.

Erica Robinson, iAHD Director of Clinical Supports stated,

“It was amazing that we were able to have thirteen individuals receive dental services on Saturday on location at IAHD! The collaboration with Partners Health Plan, Solvere Health, and iAHD is the future of dental services for people supported.”

PHP Presents at NYSABA’s 34th Annual Conference

PHP Presents at NYSABA’s 34th Annual Conference

Partners Health Plan Medical Director Steven Merahn, MD was joined by UNIFI Autism Care, Inc. Executive Vice President, Clinical Operations Erica Outlaw, MA, BCBA, LBA at NYSABA’s 34th Annual Conference in Albany, NY.

Their presentation, “Autism Outcomes: A Radical Proposal,” provided an overview about the increasing challenges to the autism community. It defined the value of services provided to children with autism and their families. Dr. Merahn and Ms. Outlaw also explored the foundations of the discipline of behavior analysis and its applications and shared the “whole child” model of care planning and delivery.

PHP Presents at The New York Alliance Conference

PHP Presents at The New York Alliance Conference

Karleen Haines, Chief of DEIB & Member Advocacy, Veronica Crawford, Individual and Family Liaison and Self-Advocate, and Carrie Delong, RN, Director of Health Care Management presented, "Managing my Health and Wellness" at The New York Alliance's Living & Working in the Community Conference; an event focused on innovative, best practices in Self-Direction. 

Workshop participants received tips, tools, and resources to support individuals in achieving and maintaining independence through overall health and wellness. 

Partners Health Plan is a not-for-profit managed care organization serving individuals with IDD to support their goals and dreams. 

LEARN MORE ABOUT SELF DIRECTION

Self-Care Tips for Your Mental Health

Self-Care is a Conscious, Mindful Effort To Take Time to Take Care of Yourself - It's Not Selfish, it's Necessary!

Before you can "effectively" take care of others, you must first take care of yourself!

What Does Self-Care Mean to YOU?

Self-care means something different to everyone. What may be self-care for one, may be stressful for another.

  • Healthy Diet
  • Hydration 
  • Reading a book
  • Listening to music
  • Watching a movie
  • Exercise
  • Enjoy Nature- Hike, etc. 
  • Gardening
  • Fishing
  • Church or other Spiritual activities
  • Time with family
  • Time with a pet
  • Cooking/baking
  • Traveling
  • Spa day
  • Enjoy a hobby

People are like flowers. Without consistent nurturing and tending, they will wilt. With consistent nurturing and tending, they will thrive. 

Only you know what you need, to thrive. 

-Melissa Ackernecht, MS, Behavioral Support Specialist

Self-Care Tips

Have a nourishing routine: create a life around yourself that benefits your mental health and the areas of your life that need support. Make little changes first!

  • Schedule time for self-care.

  • Know the Wellness Dimensions and what they mean to and for you.

  • Self-care means taking time to do things you enjoy. Usually, self-care involves everyday activities that you find relaxing, fun, or energizing. These activities could be as simple as reading a book, or as big as taking a vacation.  

  • Make self-care a priority. There will always be other things to do, but don’t let these interrupt the time you set aside for self-care. Self-care should be given the same importance as other responsibilities.  

  • Set boundaries to protect your self-care. You don’t need a major obligation to say “no” to others- you self-care is reason enough. Remind yourself that your needs are important as anyone else’s.  

  • A few minutes of self-care is better than no self-care. Set an alarm reminding you to take regular breaks, even if it’s just a walk around the block, or an uninterrupted snack. Oftentimes, stepping away will energize you to work more efficiently when you return.  

  • Keep up with self-care, even when you’re feeling good. Doing so will keep you in a healthy routine. Plus, self-care might be part of the reason why you’re feeling good.  

Mental Health Resources

Specialized Mobile Dental Clinic Brings Care and Smiles to PHP Members

Members-Only Event: Specialized Mobile Dental Clinic Brings Care and Smiles to Partners Health Plan Members

A specialized mobile dental clinic, in partnership with Solvere Health, brought dental care and smiles to Partners Health Plan (PHP) members on February 18. PHP is the first-in-the-nation, non-profit, provider-led managed care organization that fully integrates Medicare and Medicaid for individuals 21 years and older with IDD. We are dedicated to expanding access to quality healthcare to assist members in living quality lives.
  • Group of people in front of mobil dental clinic

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  • Dental chair inside of mobil dental clinic

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  • person at mobil dental clinic

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  •  Mobile dental clinic outside of PHP office

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  • People at Mobile Dental Clinic

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  • Dentists at Mobile Dental Clinic

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  • Dentists at Mobile Dental Clinic

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  • Dentist at Mobile Dental Clinic

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  • PHP member at Mobile Dental Clinic

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  • PHP member and staff at Mobile Dental Clinic

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  • PHP member and staff at Mobile Dental Clinic

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  • PHP staff at Mobile Dental Clinic

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  • PHP member at Mobile Dental Clinic

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Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) are known to have poorer oral/dental health than people without IDD. Studies show that people with IDD have 30% more untreated cavities, 50% more missing teeth, and 150% more gum disease.

The biggest reason for this health disparity is access to oral health care for children and adults with IDD: lack of preventive and regular care, including management of secondary medical conditions that are related to oral health, leads to more significant oral health problems. Wait times for IDD specialized services can be as long as a year at practices and dental school programs that offer them.

But Partners Health Plan (PHP), a NY-based health plan that is exclusively dedicated to supporting the health and well-being of individuals with IDD, is committed to ensuring the oral health of its members.

“Improving access to dental care for our community of service in New York State is mission-critical,” added Steven Merahn, MD, Medical Director, Partners Health Plan. “Our overarching goal is to improve the quality of life of our members and the relationship between oral health and overall well-being is well established.”
To achieve this goal, PHP has partnered with Solvere Health to deploy specialized IDD mobile dental clinics at select-day service locations in Metro New York to reduce travel demands.

Solvere Health is a company that specializes in the delivery of high-quality clinical services through group health events via mobile medical units or pop-up clinics to underserved populations. Individuals with IDD may struggle with the sights, sounds and experiences encountered during dental care, and the PHP-Solvere Dental Health Program will conduct specialized desensitization sessions to prepare individuals for the dental care experience and mobile clinic environments. The mobile dental units are also fully accessible for individuals with mobility challenges.

“Expanding the availability of quality healthcare services to underserved communities is central to Solvere Health's mission. We view the collaboration with Partner Health Plan as a way to make quality dental care accessible to persons with I/DD,” stated Edward Lorch, CEO, Solvere Health, “Our mobile clinics offer a solution that is empathetic and considerate. We factor in the patient population's comfort (including desensitization), convenience, mobility, and communication. When engineering and staffing the mobile clinic, we understand that taking a holistic view of the patient leads to a positive oral healthcare experience and repeat preventative care.”

“This mobile dental clinic initiative is a very exciting opportunity as it will open access to oral healthcare,” noted Rita Marie Bilello, DDS, CEO, and former Dental Director of Metro Community Health Centers. “This new dental care model will bridge a much-needed gap for Partners Health Plan (PHP) members, all adults with IDD, who have been unable to access routine preventative oral health care services. Mobilizing dental services will begin to address some of the access issues and will allow for PHP to better assist in getting their members the oral care that they need.”

About Partners Health Plan
Partners Health Plan (PHP) is the first-in-the-nation, provider-led managed care organization that fully integrates Medicare and Medicaid for individuals 21 years and older with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD), so they have the most complete care package. PHP provides person-centered care for whole-person wellness addressing the physical, behavioral, and social needs of individuals to assist them in living a quality life. The plan operates in 4 New York State regions (nine downstate counties): New York City, Long Island (Nassau and Suffolk counties), Rockland County, and Westchester County. For more information, visit www.phpcares.org.

About Solvere Health
Working with state and federal, institutional, and corporate partners, Solvere Health brings a business discipline to health challenges across the United States through onsite, mobile, and digital healthcare solutions. Deploying a team of highly motivated, accountable problem solvers, we stand up sustainable, end-to-end programs in rapid response to group health events, disaster relief, and underserved rural communities, via onsite pop-ups, mobile clinics, and strategically placed brick-and-mortar locations. Our efficient approach combines exacting strategic planning, comprehensive compliance management, unparalleled logistics, state-of-the-art mobile healthcare technology, and emerging digital health applications.

Thank a Care Manager Today!

Thank a Care
Manager Today!

Partners Health Plan will be celebrating Care Management Week 2023 beginning on Monday, October 9 through Friday, October 13.Each year, we recognize this week to acknowledge and thank our Care Management employees for the important work they do each day in support of members and their families.If you would like to thank or recognize a particular Care Manager, we invite you to submit an appreciation message by clicking on the button below. Your message will be shared directly with Care Management staff and help celebrate this important week.

Submit a Thank You Message!