Letter from the President

For many of us, this is the time of year when we look back at the year that is about to conclude, and think about all the milestones we have reached, our accomplishments achieved and challenges overcome. It is also a time of showing appreciation and gratitude for those who have helped, supported and guided us.

In this vein, I would like to share the current state of the New Jersey Speech-Language-Hearing Association (NJSHA) as well as some of NJSHA’s many accomplishments and to recognize those whose efforts have allowed these to happen.



I am pleased to announce that our association remains strong. Our membership numbers have been increasing each year and currently we have more than 1,620 members. As a NJSHA member you are part of a strong state association that focuses on issues that affect you and the people that you serve.

One of the responsibilities of the Board of Directors is the financial oversight of our association. A review of the past five years shows a stable financial position with increasing revenue earned from a growing membership as well as increased participation at NJSHA’s multiple programs.

NJSHA has been able to grow the number and variety of programs and activities. Members always benefit from reduced registration fees, as well as have the opportunity to participate in free members-only programs and promotions. NJSHA’s Board focuses on growing member benefits. While our expenses have risen commensurately overall, NJSHA is able to support all activities and provide additional member benefits through diligent financial planning and oversight.

Each year NJSHA strives to increase the value of membership. The Board continues to provide a plethora of programs and services without raising membership dues or registration fees for our many continuing education events. Some of these events include: the annual free member webinar, increased numbers of webinars available throughout the year, our annual full day continuing education programs such as the Fall Conference (formerly called the Schools Conference), the NJSHA/NJIDA Joint Conference and the Interprofessional Autism Conference (IPAC). In addition, our robust annual Convention rounds out the multiple choices for professional development. Watch for information about the upcoming Tri-Alliance Conference on Enhancing Neuroplasticity in TBI Across the Lifespan, rescheduled from December to May 2020. To read about all our continuing education events, visit www.njsha.org.

As a result of strong financial oversight and guidance by our management company, Craven Management Associates, NJSHA has a solid financial reserve. Each year, the Board of Directors approves a balanced budget to cover all activities and implement all goals of the strategic plan. Our policies and procedures require us to have 100 percent of our operating budget in reserve. Per our financial policy, 20 percent of the balance of our reserves is available for special projects. This money has gone to a variety of initiatives including website redesign, leadership development, new professional development programs and hiring a public relations consultant to help NJSHA increase the visibility of our professions to the public. By doing so, the value of the services you provide becomes better understood and more highly valued.

NJSHA’s financial resources are spent on six general areas. About half of our expenses cover NJSHA’s administration and management, which includes all program planning, membership services, hosting and maintaining our website, event planning and implementation, routing member questions to appropriate committees for responses, printing, creating and distributing resources such as VOICES, ASHA fees, public relations, including our public relations consultant, etc. About one quarter of our expenses are devoted to our annual Convention, which is also our largest single revenue source. Other continuing education events and legislative activities, including our lobbyist, each cover nine percent of our expenses. The balance, under five percent, is spent by committees and the Board. All committee chairs, vice chairs and members as well as all Board members are volunteers, devoting a great deal of their time and energy for NJSHA’s benefit.


Volunteer Leadership

Board of Directors
The list of NJSHA’s volunteer leadership is long. Our 15-member Board of Directors meets six times during the year. The Board brings experience from a variety of work settings to identify issues that need to be addressed and to advocate for our members and stakeholders. Our committee chairs and vice chairs meet regularly and provide our members with a plethora of opportunities in which to become involved and provide an unsurpassed professional support network. Our board members, committee chairs and vice chairs are our colleagues, speech-language pathologists (SLPs) and audiologists you know and work with. To find out who they are, visit https://www.njsha.org/who-we-are/board-of-directors/. To learn more about our committees, visit https://www.njsha.org/who-we-are/committees/. All NJSHA members are welcome to become involved. Join a committee, participate in an event or work on a task force. There is much to be gained and much to be achieved!

As part of our planning for the coming year, board members, committee chairs and vice chairs participated in a retreat early in October. During this very productive day, we shared our individual committee goals and identified paths where committees could collaborate and work together to accomplish a shared vision. Several new initiatives were identified and are already in the early stages of development. The outcomes of this collaboration among our committees demonstrates that by working together we enhance our value and our professions. NJSHA’s value for professional networking is unsurpassed.

NJSHA’s mission is enhanced through various ASHA initiatives. ASHA’s State Education Advocacy Leaders (SEALs) are appointed by ASHA recognized state speech-language hearing associations to advocate on education issues. NJSHA’s SEAL is Melissa Eldred.

ASHA’s StAMP Network works at the state level to influence administrative and public policy decisions that impact Medicare coverage and reimbursement of audiology and speech-language pathology services. The State Advocates for Reimbursement (STARs) are ASHA-member audiologists and speech-language pathologists who advocate in their states for improved healthcare coverage and reasonable reimbursement. NJSHA’s STAR and StAMP is Barbara Schwerin Bohus.

NJSHA is fortunate to have Melissa and Barbara participate on monthly phone meetings with ASHA and share the information from the national level through regular reports that are available to read on NJSHA’s website and in VOICES. They also present information at our annual school affairs and healthcare updates at Convention.

ASHA Grant
For the second year in a row, NJSHA received an ASHA grant which contributed to a series of Town Hall Meetings conducted in various local areas in New Jersey. This year the topic was Interprofessional Practice (IPP). Thanks to the team members who worked from April to September to develop an informative and ambitious presentation. Our creators and presenters were: Kathy Palatucci, Joan Warner, Mary Faella, Donna Spillman-Kennedy, Julie Skoldberg, Karen Kimberlin, Kelly Pezzanite, Kristie Soriano, Linda Tucker-Simpson, Maria Rodriguez, Mary McArdle, Marla Reich, Marykate Vaughn, Natalie Neubauer, Nicole Ford, Robyn Cohen and Barbara Schwerin Bohus. A video of the IPP presentation will be available soon for ASHA continuing education hours on our website. Stay tuned for a series of podcasts on this topic, specific to various work settings. These podcasts will be created and recorded by the above-mentioned team and guest contributors from other professions.

This year NJHSA redesigned its website. Our new website has a new look, more intuitive navigation and contains easy to find highlights including advocacy/legislative issues, current news/happenings and a calendar of events. This amazing website is due to significant work by our project leaders Donna Spillman-Kennedy and Natalie Neubauer. On the task force with them were Joan Besing and Mary Faella.

It has been a busy year for advocacy! Under the guidance of NJSHA’s lobbyist, Lynn Nowak and her associate Jacy Lance, NJSHA has had significant impact on new legislation that impacts our professions. The details can be found on our website. Highlights include the passage of the single license for audiologists (thanks to Bob Woods, Bob DiSogra, Janet Koehnke, Marykate Vaughn, Joan Besing, Donna Merchant, among others for their years of work on this) and NJSHA’s successful resolution to the proposed contracting of American Specialty Health (ASH) by Horizon to conduct utilization review of private practice speech therapy (and other therapies) claims. As soon as NJSHA became aware of this issue, with the potential to hurt SLPs in private practice and the patients they treat, we met with Horizon and ASH and communicated with the department of banking and insurance. We were able to make these groups aware of how speech-language pathology services are different than those provided by other therapy disciplines and therefore should not be part of the proposed changes. Thanks to Jennifer Moore, Robyn Merkel-Walsh, Christina Luna  and Sharon Ratiner for their involvement and contributions to achieve a positive outcome. NJSHA has a very active legislative committee chaired by Past President Mary Faella and legislative committee vice chair Marykate Vaughn. They remain actively involved with our lobbyist to monitor upcoming legislation and ensure that NJSHA’s voice is heard in Trenton. To read about all our advocacy successes, as well as the issues that NJSHA is following and providing input to, go to https://www.njsha.org/advocacy/current-issues-in-legislation/.


Coming in 2020

With so many accomplishments in 2019, we look forward to ongoing successes in 2020. Enter for a chance to win NJSHA’s Grateful Giveaway drawing. Register for the upcoming Gerard Caracciolo Free Members Appreciation Webinar scheduled for March. Attend the NJSHA/NJIDA Conference in March, which promises to be another sell out. Don’t miss the annual Convention in Long Branch, which gets better each year and will be another masterful success with an impressive slate of speakers and several new initiatives (watch for announcements in coming weeks). Join your colleagues at the Tri-Alliance Conference in May, which will bring together speech-language, physical therapy and occupational therapy professionals on the topic of traumatic brain injury. Be on the lookout for local NJSHA sponsored showings of the documentary My Beautiful Stutter, coming in May.


We encourage you to get involved, take advantage of all the benefits of your NJSHA membership, share your expertise and enthusiasm on a committee, advocate for an issue of importance. Through NJSHA we each become greater as we work together. We are NJSHA.

At this busy time of year, on behalf of the Board of Directors, I wish you all very happy holidays. May you have time to spend with family and friends and find moments to relax, unwind and experience all the joy of the holiday season.

Warm regards,
Robynne Kratchman
President, NJSHA