From the Editor

Community Habilitation (also known as “Com Hab”) is an important part of bridging the gap between home and community life. We all need and want to be included in our communities and to learn to live as independently as possible.

My son, Nick, gets to do a variety of activities through Starbridge Com Hab, all tied to his Life Plan goals. If your child doesn’t have a Life Plan yet, it is a document written by your child’s care coordinator and your child that reflects the life goals and changing needs of a person with developmental or intellectual disabilities.

With his Com Hab counselor, Nick attends a community program where he interacts with peers, goes to the library and local museums, goes grocery shopping and cooks, does his laundry, cleans his room, makes artwork, makes purchases at a variety of stores and restaurants, goes on nature walks and takes photos, attends concerts, and even went to Niagara Falls one day for an excursion. This spring, we’re pursuing horseback riding as another activity. 

Does your child, youngster or adult, participate in Com Hab? What activities would they like to pursue? I hope this issue inspires you to think outside of the box in guiding your child to explore the community and grow in independence.


Best to you and yours,

Maria Schaertel

What is Com Hab and Where Can It Occur?

Community Habilitation is a Medicaid-funded program operated under NYS Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) to provide one-to-one training to people with intellectual/developmental disabilities to develop or enhance the skills needed to live more independently in their homes or in the community.

The ultimate goal of Com Hab is to empower people with disabilities to live meaningful and fulfilling lives within their communities.

Com hab can be delivered in an independent setting (like the person’s home) or certified setting, (like a group home).

Starbridge Director of Com Hab ,

Katie Cannan, Describes Person-Centered Program

“Starbridge is proud to offer our Com Hab Services face to face, one on one, with a focus on skill building, community inclusion, and relationship building. Com Hab assists people with achieving their personal goals, living as independently as possible, while providing support in building meaningful lives.  

People receiving Com Hab services are matched with a Com Hab counselor that can best meet their needs and help the person succeed with the goals they choose to work on…whether that be exercising, grocery shopping, learning how to kayak, volunteer at a pet shelter, or learning how to utilize the calendar on their cell phone.  

In addition to our standard one on one Com Hab Services, Group Com Hab opportunities are also available to those that are interested.

The most rewarding aspect of my role as Com Hab Director at Starbridge has been having the opportunity to build and work alongside a team of dedicated, compassionate, and highly engaged Com Hab Counselors. Our Com Hab teams’ shared vision and goals have allowed us to provide valuable, personalized, and meaningful services and support to those we serve in our Com Hab program. I hope that I can continue to create an environment for our Com Hab counselors and people served to succeed, thrive, and develop.”

How Do I Start?

To participate in Com Hab through Starbridge:

Use the Contact Us form or call Katie Cannan, Director of Community Habilitation Services, at 585-224-7211.

To access Starbridge’s Com Hab Referral Form:


  • Call the OPWDD Infoline at 866-946-9733 and ask to be transferred to the local Front Door Office by providing the name of the person’s county.

  • Have their eligibility confirmed, and have that service recommended. 

  • For people already receiving supports, their care manager (also known as a care coordinator) can assist them in obtaining Com Hab if appropriate.


A Sampling of Com Hab Activities

  • Dance
  • Kayaking
  • Gymnastics
  • Trying out and shopping for healthy foods
  • Cooking, cleaning, organizing
  • Sports (participating or spectator)
  • Religious or cultural activities
  • Volunteering
  • Medical appointments
  • Exercise – personal training or group classes
  • Speech and literacy tutoring
  • Math tutoring
  • Music lessons
  • Theater classes
  • What would your child like to do??

Com Hab Professionals

Com Hab Counselors are part of a larger group called Direct Support Professionals (DSPs). “Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) assist people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities in realizing their full potential and becoming valued and participating members of their communities. Their work is complex and goes well beyond caregiving, requiring skills including independent problem solving, decision making, behavioral assessment and prevention, medication administration, teaching new skills, crisis prevention and intervention and more.


Their work requires strong communication skills and the ability to build relationships with the people they support and their families. DSPs may work in family or individual homes, intermediate care facilities, residential group homes, community job sites, vocational and day programs, and other locations. Their work is determined by the unique needs and preferences of the people they support and they are held to high ethical and professional standards.” From


Com Hab Supports Can Include

  • adaptive skill development
  • community inclusion and relationship building
  • development of social skills
  • travel training
  • money management
  • leisure skills
  • appropriate behavior development to help the individual access their community

Meet a Starbridge Com Hab Counselor

Eden Nozier has been a Starbridge Com Hab Counselor for seven years. He especially enjoys seeing clients grow in independence. “Our clients' smiles and appreciation are one of my favorite things…Going into homes and helping them be independent “brings joy to my heart.” 


See Eden’s full interview here

Widening the Circle: Exploring Initiatives Serving People with Disabilities

This month, we’re featuring Endless Highway, a Rochester-NY based nonprofit empowering individuals who use mobility devices to live connected and active lives through access to sports, recreation, arts, and community opportunities. 


It's a mission that had long been dreamed of by Founder Rob Tortorella, who sustained a cervical spinal cord injury during a car accident in 1983 resulting in the use of a wheelchair for all aspects of mobility. An athlete since childhood with a well-rounded reverence for music and the arts, Rob started Endless Highway to help youth with physical disabilities access the adaptive equipment and programs they needed in order get into the game.


Following the addition of Caralie Fennessey, Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS), to the team in 2019, Endless Highway's collaboration with organizations in the community continued to grow along with their capacity for equipment, program, and project sponsorship. The nonprofit expanded their mission to include all individuals—youth and adults—who use mobility devices in their pursuit of sports, recreation, arts, and community experiences. 


Disability-led with an emphasis on collaboration, the organization's four focus areas include: 

Sponsoring mobility equipment 

(Think: basketball wheelchairs, hockey sleds, racing chairs, handcycles, sit-skis, standing frames, and more)

Co-designing adaptive and/or inclusive experiences

(Free dance and theater productions, adaptive yoga seminars, and virtual reality game nights to name a few)

Funding accessible programs and providing financial aid for opportunities that exist within our community

(Like helping sports teams obtain the equipment and funding they need to compete or covering the enrollment costs for an adaptive scuba diving course)

Partnering with businesses and organizations to offer free accessibility and inclusivity consulting services

(Training teams on how to create a welcoming and accessible environment for all customers or patrons, or providing a physical accessibility assessment of a community space)

Endless Highway is always open to connecting with individuals, families, and community partners who need support or want to join them on the road to a more accessible, inclusive, and equitable future. You can see more examples of their impact by following along on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube


Contact Information:

Endless Highway, Inc. | 1 S Clinton Ave, Suite C200, Rochester, NY 14604


Phone: 585-739-2659


A Word of Hope

“Hope is an important psychological strength that has at least three important components. First, hope can buffer the effects of adversity and stress and serves as an important coping resource for both children and adults. Next, hope predicts adaptive thoughts and behaviors. Put simply, hopeful people have better outcomes connected to the way they think and behave. Finally, and most important to all of us, hope can be learned. Intentional strategies or interventions can move the needle on hope.”

From Hope Rising: How the Science of HOPE Can Change Your Life, by Casey Gwinn, J.D. and Chan Hellman, PhD., 2022

Additional Resources

Community Habilitation - Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD)

Community Habilitation – Starbridge website

Direct Support Professionals website


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