Autism New Jersey Welcomes New Public Policy Staff

May 17, 2024

Autism New Jersey is pleased to announce that Darren Blough, MSW, BCaBA, and Devin Baker, MPA, have joined the organization to lead its public policy initiatives. Autism New Jersey’s public policy work is fundamental to its mission to improve the lives of individuals with autism statewide, and our successes have been driven by a unique blend of clinical and policy knowledge.

Historically, the Public Policy Director was either a clinician or a policy expert. Now, this work will benefit from two distinct and complementary perspectives, both fully dedicated to advancing state policy. Darren joins as the Public Policy Director, and Devin joins as the Deputy Public Policy Director, a newly created position. Darren and Devin are broadly charged with advancing policies that address the needs of individuals with profound autism including those with severe challenging behavior through funding and workforce development initiatives. They will also focus on more targeted areas to advance policy and services for the large and growing community of adults with autism.

“Consistent with Autism New Jersey’s commitment to bringing deep expertise to create meaningful change on complex issues, we are excited that Darren and Devin have joined our team to lead our policy initiatives,” said Autism New Jersey Executive Director Dr. Suzanne Buchanan. She continued, “With 30 years of clinical and program administration experience and 10 years of policy experience, respectively, they are well positioned to collaborate with a wide range of stakeholders and thoughtfully advance meaningful policies to benefit individuals with autism.”

Darren’s career working with children and adults with disabilities spans a number of roles from his early days as a direct support professional (DSP) to senior leadership positions. He is a Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst and is actively involved with the New Jersey Association for Behavior Analysis where he serves as the Chair of the Adult Services Workgroup. Darren was appointed by Governor Murphy as an inaugural member of the State Board of Applied Behavior Analyst Examiners, where he served for almost three years. Darren was also actively involved with the New Jersey Association of Community Providers, where he was President of the Board for eight years and served as the Co-Chair of the Legislative and Policy Committee.

“It is truly an honor to join the team here at Autism New Jersey. I have always admired the mission and work for the betterment of this most vulnerable population,” said Darren. “I am looking forward to contributing my clinical and programmatic experiences to inform policy development and continuing to collaborate with the community and government officials to improve the quality of life for individuals with autism.”

Devin’s experience in the public sector and policy realm will be instrumental in converting the team’s clinical expertise and best practices to policy. Devin previously served as the Chief of Staff and Legislative Director to Assemblywoman Tennille R. McCoy and former Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle. He also served as the Legislative Liaison for the New Jersey Department of Children and Families where he was instrumental in shaping policies within the state’s child welfare system.

“I am grateful to be taking on this new role for such an amazing organization that makes a difference in the lives of individuals with autism each and every day,” said Devin Baker. “Coming from state government, I know that it takes immense work and collaboration to turn policy ideas into a reality, and together with Suzanne and Darren, I am ready to take on the challenge.”