Nearly 45 Years after Willowbrook State School Brought to Light, Community Options to Celebrate 20 Years of Progress in NYC

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September 29, 2016

Nearly 45 Years after Willowbrook State School Brought to Light, Community Options to Celebrate 20 Years of Progress in NYC

Community Options 20th Anniversary of Excellence in the Empire State. October 4 -7th 2016.

45 years ago, Geraldo Rivera exposed the atrocities that were occurring at the Willowbrook State School on Staten Island. This institution, which had previously been described as a “snake pit” by Robert Kennedy, warehoused over 6,000 people with disabilities in horrific conditions. With the assistance of a former physician and Bernard Carabello, a person with cerebral palsy living at Willowbrook, Geraldo was able to gain access and witness firsthand the abuse that the individuals endured at the state-run facility.

“The actions of Bernard Carabello and those involved with the Geraldo Rivera expose resulted in the movement toward de-institutionalization of people with disabilities. Over the last several decades, the number of individuals living in intuitions has gone from 300,000 to 40,000. However, there is still much work to be done,” stated Robert Stack, CEO of Community Options.

From October 5-7, Community Options will be hosting a conference and gala at the Grand Hyatt in New York City. Bernard Carabello will be the keynote speaker on Wednesday, October 5. Bernard will share his experiences at Willowbrook and how exposing the conditions changed his life and the lives of thousands of people with disabilities in New York and nationally. His presentation will delineate the reasons why the closure of institutional facilities for people with disabilities is so important and why we need to be advocating for their rights.

The conference will also include presentations by Dr. Colleen Wieck, Executive Director of the Minnesota Developmental Disabilities Council. This presentation will take us through historical milestones from ancient practices and teachings, through today. Because of litigation and legislation, people with developmental disabilities are leading lives of independence, productivity, self-determination, integration and inclusion in the community. The Arizona Director of Economic Security, Timothy Jeffries, will also present on the role of government in developing quality based services for people with disabilities.

On evening of Thursday, October 6th, Community Options will be celebrating 20 years of excellence in the Empire State at the Lighthouse on Chelsea Piers. During the event, NJ Senate President Steve Sweeney, who is also a parent of a child with a disability, will address the group and will be honored as a Parent, Advocate and Leader.

For more information, visit


About Community Options, Inc.:

For over 25 years, Community Options has developed housing and employment programs for people with disabilities – serving thousands of people through 38 offices across 10 states. Community Options provides advocacy assistance to empower people with disabilities because all people – regardless of ability level – should live and work in the community with dignity, choice and self-determination.

For more information please visit our website: and to follow along with the ComOpCares campaign, search #ComOpCares on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.