NYC Health + Hospitals’ Vice President of Ambulatory Care, Dr. Ted Long, last week honored Marilyn E. Saviola, the founder of the Independence Care System Women’s Health Program and nationally recognized disability-rights advocate, for her unwavering advocacy for the rights of people with physical disabilities to live at home and in the community as independently as possible. Saviola was honored at the grand opening of the newly renovated radiology suite at NYC Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health, Morrisania, which will now enable women with disabilities to receive accurate mammogram and preventative OB/GYN care for the first time.
“We are honored to recognize Marilyn E. Saviola’s dedication and advocacy for the rights of people with disabilities, especially women who have gained access to important preventative health screenings through her work,” said Dr. Long. “Many women will live longer and healthier lives because of Marilyn’s tireless efforts.”
“This unexpected honor means a great deal to me, especially receiving it at NYC Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health, Morrisania, which was a very early partner in making women’s health services available to ICS members,” said Marilyn. “NYC Health + Hospitals was one of the first health care providers in New York City to embrace our goal of making health care accessible to people with disabilities. I applaud the hospital system’s commitment to serving our community with high quality care, and I look forward to our growing work together.”
“NYC Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health is fortunate to work with Marilyn and ICS on health care issues that affect people with disabilities,” said Michelle Lewis, CEO of Gotham Health. “She has heightened awareness of these issues throughout our system and has been instrumental in formulating plans to achieve universal access where all patients have equal access to care. The ultimate goal is to offer welcoming environments that support health and well-being.”
“Marilyn is a longtime champion for disability rights,” said Richard N. Gottfried, assembly health committee chair. “She has worked relentlessly to achieve dignity and access to care for New Yorkers with disabilities, and I congratulate her for another victory with the expansion of these critical health care services.”
“Access to health care is a human right for all people, including individuals with disabilities,” said Victor Calise, commission at the New York City Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities. “Marilyn Saviola’s steadfast advocacy has ensured that the needs of the disability community are at the forefront of health care policy discussions. The Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities commends NYC Health + Hospitals for honoring Marilyn and improving health care for people with disabilities through the opening of the renovated and accessible radiology suite at NYC Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health, Morrisania.”
At 10, Marilyn was diagnosed with polio and because of her disability she began to encounter barriers in housing, transportation, education, employment and health care. As she overcame challenges, Marilyn became a renowned advocate for people with disabilities, responsible for many new programs, including founding and leading the ICS Women’s Health Access Program, which helps women with disabilities get the preventive, gender-specific health services they need, such as breast and cervical cancer screenings.
In 1983, Marilyn became executive director of the Center for Independence of the Disabled in New York. Her experiences with the difficulties that people with disabilities encounter in trying to live independently in the community led her to advocate for the creation of New York’s Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program, which gave consumers with disabilities the ability to direct their own home care services and tailor them to their individual needs. Marilyn’s leadership contributed to the passage of state legislation making CDPAP permanent, and a mandatory option for New Yorkers with disabilities.
In 1998, Marilyn became senior vice president for advocacy at ICS, which coordinates a range of home care, health care and social services to enable adults with physical disabilities to live independently. In this role, she intervenes on behalf of members who face crises in negotiating the systems that impact their lives.
In 2008, Marilyn founded the ICS Women’s Health Access Program. Thanks to her efforts, preventative, gender-specific health services, such as breast and cervical cancer screenings, are more widely available in New York. She continues her work to expand these services, as well as to add accessible primary care, which will benefit both women and men.