Advocacy Support Unit

​Who we are:

The Director of Advocacy Supports and the regional advocacy specialists are self-advocates. Advocating for ourselves and others, we can support people who receive DDA services to get the supports they want and need.

What we do:

Regional Advocacy Specialists

  • Build relationships with self-advocates, self-advocacy groups and providers
  • Support other self-advocates to learn about and understand DDA services
  • Coordinate and conduct a seven week training with a group of Self-Advocates
  • Provide general support to people receiving services from DDA
  • Develop and conduct additional training that meets the needs of Self-Advocates in their regions

What we offer:

In response to feedback from self-advocates, we will offer training on topics that people need. To ensure all self-advocates statewide receive the same information, at least one training will take place in each region every quarter. Self-advocates are encouraged to contact the regional advocacy specialists for support for any individual issue about DDA.
  • Do you understand how your IP is written?
  • Do you want to know how to get different or more services from DDA?
  • Do you want someone to explain DDA processes in terms that make sense to you?
  • Do you just need support to fill out DDA paperwork?
To get answers and support: We, the regional advocacy specialists are here to assist.

Meet the Team:

Goli Balakhani is the DDA Director of Advocacy Supports. She received her Associates degree in general education from CCBC. Due to an accidental fall, she ended up in a nursing home facility. In 2008, after much struggle, she transitioned back to living independently. She completed her Bachelor's degree in psychology, sociology from Towson University in 2010. She is a licensed Support Broker and has worked as a volunteer with Courtland Gardens Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, National Institute of Mental Health and Bais Yaakov Middle School in Baltimore. She has been advocating for a life of her choosing and for people with disabilities for many years.

Jessica Stine is the DDA Western Maryland Regional Advocacy Specialist. She is a person with a visual impairment. She uses adaptive technology along with braille, to support her productive life. Due to her own determination, strength, and support from others, she has been able to not only advocate for herself but for other individuals with disabilities. She earned her Associates Degree in General Studies in 2003, and more recently her Paralegal Degree. Also, while attending community college, she was able to give the school helpful ideas on making their campus more accessible for people with disabilities. During that time, she also worked at The Arc of Washington. She won the Self-Advocator of the Year award, and another for successfully using technology in the workplace.

Nicole Leblanc is the DDA Southern Maryland Regional Advocacy Specialist. She has a specialty in public policy and excels at communicating the needs of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to public officials. She has presented keynotes on the dignity of risk at statewide self-advocacy conferences. From Sept. to March 2017, Leblanc was a Paul Marchand Public Policy intern at the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD). During this time, she researched the Trump administration's policy stance on various issues such as IDEA, civil rights, and Medicaid. Most recently, she served as a part-time transit organizer for Americans for Transit, where she collected petition signatures opposing bus and rail service cuts.

How Do I?

Resources and Information