Matthew Habedank of Northwestern Counseling & Support Services (NCSS) received the Ed Sbardellati Award for Excellence and Innovation in School Based Mental Health Services, also known as the Eddie. The award—presented annually at the state-wide Success Beyond Six Behavior Intervention conference—is granted to an individual who has made outstanding contributions to the field of behavior intervention in the state of Vermont. This is the fourth year the award has been presented.
Ed Sbardellati is credited for bringing behavior analysis as we know it to the state of Vermont, helping to establish the first BI programs in the state at Washington County Mental Health, and working for years to launch and maintain the ABA graduate program at Johnson State College. “In terms of people who have contributed to the development of both behavior intervention services for kids and applied behavior analysis (ABA) as a field in the state, Ed [Sbardellati] stands alone on his own Mount Rushmore,” says Habedank. Habedank has enrolled in a couple classes with Sbardellati over the years, and feels fortunate to have benefited from his advice and experience on many occasions. “I consider him a mentor and friend, and wouldn’t have gotten to where I am today without his input and help.”
Habedank may be humble when it comes to his personal contributions, but he has plenty of impressive experience to tout himself. Prior to coming to Vermont in 2001, Habedank worked in several residential settings for both kids and adults with emotional, behavioral, and mental health needs. He began his tenure at NCSS as a middle school teacher at Soar Learning Center, an alternative education and day treatment program within the Children, Youth & Family Services division of NCSS. After five years Habedank accepted the Behavioral Intervention Team Leader position at Soar Learning Center, a post in which he supervised all behavioral staff within the school. For seven years, Habedank remained in this role, all the while working toward his master’s degree in Applied Behavior Analysis at Johnson State College.
He made his next big move into his current role of Program Manager in April 2013. In this position his expertise in Applied Behavior Analysis is paramount, as he supervises the Collaborative Achievement Team, the School-Based Autism Team, the School-Based Autism Program, and Applied Behavior Services. Habedank also became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst in spring of 2014. Danielle Lindley-Mitchell, Director of Children, Youth & Family Services at NCSS, says this award speaks to who Matt is as person. “His contributions to children with autism and other developmental disabilities are phenomenal; we’re incredibly lucky to have him working with us at NCSS.”
Habedank is quite involved in other work around the state; he has served as the chair of the Behavior Intervention Program Director’s committee for the last three years, which is the group that among other things organizes and puts on the BI conference every year. For two years, he served on the Vermont Association of Behavior Analysis, and since 2016 Habedank has been an adjunct faculty at Johnson State College’s ABA program. “I feel incredibly humbled by this award as there are a ton of great people I work with all the time—who were my teachers and mentors through the years—who have done just as much or more than me in the field, both in NCSS as across the state,” says Habedank.
“The award is more about the work of the agency as a whole, as it takes all of us working together to accomplish great things, and I am only a small part of that process. Many of the things I get to be a part of in terms of broader state collaboration I can only do because I have supportive and innovative leadership that lets me be creative, and fantastic team leaders and staff that handle their business every day.
“On a personal level, I owe a huge debt to my wife and kids, who have had to tolerate my being gone a great deal, and many late night returns home. Without their support I also couldn’t be a part of many of the things with which I become involved,” Habedank adds.