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The CalTASH Legislative & Policy Committee presents a Town Hall Webinar:

Reengaging: Public Safety Strategies to Support Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

May 25th 2022

Reengaging in the community after two years of the pandemic has been difficult for us all. Even more so for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. With changes to daily routines, interruptions in services and supports, activities, school, and employment, many people face uncertainties about the future and concern about reengaging and once again spending more time in the community. Public safety is of utmost importance. In this webinar we will discuss strategies to support those with intellectual and developmental disabilities to be safe in their communities, and what training and initiatives help first responders and other public safety professionals better serve individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. 


Mizpah Brown-Rich, Joshua’s Gift

Mizpah Brown-Rich is the CEO and Co-Founder of Joshua’s Gift, Inc., a foundation inspired by their beloved son, to help foster friendships and inclusion for families affected by autism. Mizpah and her husband began building their non-profit Joshua’s Gift, in the early part of 2017. Her passion to support families living with autism led to the vision of Joshua’s Gift.  Her goal is to provide essential services and relief through funding and social experiences that might otherwise be inaccessible to families living with autism. 

Mizpah Brown Rich. is an African American woman with shoulder length black curly hair. She wears a necklace with beads.

Recently, Mizpah and her husband created an alert code for first responders in order to reduce the traumatic situations too often faced by individuals with autism and IDD.  Often mistaken as uncooperative or even dangerous, people with autism have had harrowing encounters with police and emergency personnel.  To educate responders and prevent more tragedies, they created CODE JOSHUA.


Yolanda Cruz, Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) International & State Council on Developmental Disabilities;

Yolanda Cruz. is a woman wiith short dark hair. She wears a scarf.

Yolanda Cruz is the Regional Manager for the Sequoia Office of the State Council on Developmental Disabilities (SCDD). Yolanda oversees a region that includes seven California Central Valley Counties, focusing on trainings that include rights of people with developmental disabilities. As a part of her health and safety work, she provides training for law enforcement on common characteristics of IDD under the LD 37 curriculum.  She was appointed to Board Secretary of Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) International, an organization whose mission is to promote community collaboration using the CIT Program, to assist people living with mental illness and/or addiction, who are in crisis.  She currently trains all officers recently graduated from the San Bernardino Sherriff Department Police Academy on IDD and Co-Occurring Mental Health.

Yolanda’s most important role is advocating for her brother who is diagnosed with dual mental health and developmental disabilities, which have led to him being forensically involved, within all aspects of the justice system.


Peter Mendoza, State Council on Developmental Disabilities

Peter Mendoza serves the State Council on Developmental Disabilities (SCDD) Sacramento Regional Office team as a Community Program Specialist II. He has over four decades of disability advocacy and personal experience as a person living with Cerebral Palsy. Peter works to advance full-inclusion and equity in everything he does.

Before joining SCDD, he served as the Director of Advocacy for the Marin Center for Independent Living, where he played a key role in supporting the County of Marin and the Emergency Operations Center during the COVID - 19 pandemic and wildfire season, and in developing and launching a critical new initiative, Marin Center for Independent Living’s Powered and Prepared. This initiative ensures the readiness and safety of older adults and people with disabilities in the event of emergencies, including wildfires, public safety power shutoffs, and other natural disasters.  


Peter Mendoza. is a white man with short hair and glasses. He wears a red jacket and a checkered shirt.

Peter has extensive experience educating and providing technical assistance to governmental and non-governmental entities, including SafetyNet organizations, relating to best practices for supporting people with disabilities. He has also presented to law enforcement agencies on best practices serving people with disabilities. Peter’s vast experience includes having served in a variety of leadership positions, including with the State Council on Developmental Disabilities, serving as Chair of the Council; as Chair of the California State Independent Living Council, and with the California Olmstead Advisory Committee, which subsequently became the Disability and Aging Community Living Advisory Committee.


Det. Erick Rueppel, San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office Psychiatric Emergency Response Team (PERT);

Detective Erik Rueppel joined the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office in 2013 after fifteen years with the CA State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB) Police. It was at CSUMB where Detective Rueppel first started working with mental health support staff, serving college students experiencing first signs of mental illness to Veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan war returning to college on the GI Bill and experiencing symptoms of PTSD. He found working with students and their families to develop success plans very rewarding.  


Detective Rueppel was assigned to the Sheriff’s Transit Bureau in 2014 and responded to dozens of mental health calls per year, where Deputies had to navigate three counties’ different responses to mental health crisis. It was the compilation of these experiences that led to his desire to apply for the Sheriff’s Psychiatric Emergency Response Team (PERT), and continue his service to those who struggle with mental illness. He has been the Sheriff’s Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Coordinator since October 2018, and his tenure with PERT began in 2019. Detective Rueppel now works every day to make law enforcement response to mental health crisis safer-- for deputies, as the county Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) facilitator, and for mental health consumers, by connecting them with the proper county support resource, reducing hospitalization and incarceration.

Detective Erik Reuppel. is in police unifrom in front of an american flag.

Cassie Villar, San Mateo County Adult Protective Services and Elder and Dependent Adult Protection Team.

Cassie Villar is the Adult Protective Services (APS) & EDAPT Training & Outreach Specialist with San Mateo County. Mrs. Villar educates about elder and dependent adult abuse and provides a multidisciplinary approach to helping victims of neglect and/or crime. Services provided by APS include responding to reports of known or suspected abuse or neglect, conducting an investigation, and arranging for the delivery of services from available community agencies.

Cassie Villar is a latina with long black hair. She wears a blue jacket and a pale blue top.

Mrs. Villar was a Community Worker with San Mateo County, Children and Family Services for 21 years. Last year she joined San Mateo County Health, Aging and Adult Services.


Mizpah Brown-Rich, Joshua’s Gift;

Moderated by Sheraden Nicholau, State Council on Developmental Disabilities.

Sheraden Nicholau is a white woman with short brown hair. She wears a circular pendant.

The State Council on Developmental Disabilities (SCDD) is established by state and federal law as an independent state agency and ensures that Californians with developmental disabilities are guaranteed the same full and equal opportunities for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as all American.

Sheraden Nicholau leads a Bay Area based regional team, executing the SCDD’s core functions of advocacy, capacity building, and systemic change. This team is also responsible for data collection and community engagement for the National Core Indicators project and the Movers Longitudinal Study for several counties in the state.

Sheraden has held both lead and individual contributor roles in cross-sector and intra-industry advisory committees, task forces, and collaboratives, effecting change in inclusionary practices, policy and legislation. Previously in her career, Sheraden has served as an associate executive director for a nonprofit service and advocacy organization. She received her MA and BA in Sociology, focused on social justice, social capital, and human services. Additionally, Sheraden has completed two levels of California’s POST Law Enforcement Instructor certification.

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