Q&A with Maria Cappoletti

New CEO at Kelberman — a nonprofit that helps people diagnosed with autism — plans to reopen office in Utica

By David Podos

Q: What are the basic services you provide and who are the people receiving those services?

A: Kelberman provides help to individuals who have been diagnosed with autism as well as support for their families if needed. Additionally, we offer housing to our clients through our Link program.  Our staff offers a wide scope of services to our clients from birth up to and through adulthood. More specifically, we offer evaluation and diagnostic testing and social work services. We also work within the school system offering support for students with autism. Presently we have a clinic in Rome as well as a clinic in the Syracuse area.

Q: So, you do not have a clinic here in Utica?

A: We did have a clinic here. But now we are in transition looking for a new location so we can once again have clinical services right here in Utica. In the meantime, we are temporarily in Rome until we re-open back here in Utica.

Q: What is your best estimate when that will happen?

A: We have some exciting plans underway and are hoping we can re-locate and be operational within the next year.

Q: You mentioned earlier that you can also provide housing, if needed. What are the criteria to be eligible, how many apartments do you have?

A: We have 60 units in total. Twelve of the 60 are specifically set aside for people with autism and IDD [intellectual developmental disabilities]. The other 48 units are for people who meet a certain financial threshold, so those people have to be income qualified.

Q: Are the apartment units just for single-occupancy or are there apartments that can accommodate couples or families?

A: We have a variety of apartments that can offer living arrangements from single to couples and families.

Q: What is your educational background and work background?

A: My original degree is in music therapy. So, I started my career as a music therapist working with children with autism, as well as working in centralized school settings with students who were autistic. I also worked for the Office of OPDD [Office of People with Developmental Disabilities], providing facilitative services and service coordination. Just prior to coming to Kelberman I was involved in quality and programming for a company that did care coordination. When I came to Kelberman last year, I was the chief operating officer and now hold the position of chief executive officer.

Q: As the new CEO what is your vision for Kelberman?

A: Well, I want the agency to continue to be the center of excellence for autism services. I also want to make sure we are meeting the needs of our clients and their families along their lifespan, for however long a period that may be.

Q: What challenges do you expect to face in 2023 as the new CEO?

A: I think one of the challenges that we as an agency [myself as CEO] will face, like so many industries, is finding the right employees. For us at Kelberman, that is such a driving force. The people that we employ are important. We want them to feel that they belong, that they have a home here. Of course, I want to make sure the communities that we serve know who we are, what services we provide, and the importance of building a strong community connection.

Q: How many staff do you currently have?

A: About 350.

Q: What is your operational budget for 2023?

A: $14.5 million.

Q: What are your funding sources?

A: We have a varied approach on where we get our funding. Many of our services are Medicaid funded; we also accept private insurance reimbursement, state and federal grants as well as fundraising, which is always a challenge.

Q: Fundraising is certainly a challenge and with today’s economy even more so. Do you have any large fundraising events coming up for 2023?

A: Yes, it is our annual autism walk, which will be held in April.

For more information on the walk as well as other events and services, visit Kelbermancenter.org or call  315- 797-6241.