sally johnstonSally Johnston’s accomplishments are many, but it was her advancement of Consumer Directed Personal Assistance (CDPA) that stands out the most. In the early 1990s, Sally persuaded a contingent from Syracuse, including the Onondaga County executive and others from the Local Department of Social Services, to visit New York City and examine this new model of community-based support. Together they worked to bring a demonstration program to Syracuse and Onondaga County.

As she worked to implement a pilot CDPA program in Onondaga County, Sally demonstrably changed it to increase its effectiveness and attractiveness. While the program in New York City had been for individuals with a high degree of management capacity, to begin with, Sally envisioned a CDPA program that could be implemented statewide and allowed a new level of consumer, one who needed more in the way of support from their Fiscal Intermediary (FI), to operate. She changed the nature of the FI’s role, introducing a level of support for the consumer that would forever alter the program and lead to the type of FI that most people, particularly those upstate, utilize today.

As the program went statewide, she became a leader in CDPA, helping FIs understand the program better and furthering both the program and its goals through the collective work of a broader community, which she brought together. She then worked to bring the collective of fiscal intermediaries operating around the state together under one umbrella, an organization that was officially founded in 2000 and named the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Association of NYS (CDPAANYS).

Begun as a means for agencies to compare implementation problems with counties, the association now serves as the only statewide resource on CDPA, advancing the program for both FIs and consumers.

In 1988, Sally received the Ralph E. Kharas Award for Distinctive Service in Civil Liberties from the Central New York Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

In recognition of Sally’s pioneering role in growing Consumer Directed Personal Assistance in New York state, CDPAANYS named an award after her. The Sally Johnston Advocacy Award is given each year to an individual whose advocacy on behalf of CDPA was critical for the success of the program and its grounding philosophy of independence and control.

Sally retired in 2020. That same year, AccessCNY established the Sally Johnston Advocacy Center to honor the contributions that she has made in advancing disability rights in Central New York. The Center is not only a remembrance of Sally’s 40 years of advocacy work but also a promise to continue her work and constantly strive towards equality.


Sally Johnston speaks with Cliff and Denise on stage