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Leadership Team



 Associative Executive

Quality Assurance/Corporate Compliance

Frank Pennucci


Frank Pennucci is a Quality Improvement professional with over forty years of experience in the field of developmental disabilities.  Throughout his career, Mr. Pennucci has advocated to ensure that people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities have meaningful and quality lives.  He has particular expertise in Incident Management, Investigations, regulatory matters, Corporate Compliance, Risk Management, and organization Excellence.


Frank began his career in public service as a Community Placement Specialist with the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities in 1976.  He has had a variety of progressively responsible positions with OPWDD.


From 1982 until 2001, Mr. Pennucci served in a number of senior administrative positions in OPWDD’s Division of Quality Assurance, culminating in his appointment to Regional Director.  He was responsible for the management of all certification, inspection, monitoring, and complaint activities within a large urban/suburban area.


In 2001, Frank was appointed the Director of Quality Assurance for the Long Island Developmental Disabilities office. Mr. Pennucci was responsible for the management of the following administrative units: Capital/Program Development, Staff Development and Training, Information Services, Medical Records, Confidential Investigations, Incident Management, Quality Assurance (voluntary and state), Public Relations, and the Administrator-On-Call system.


Additionally, in 2004, Frank served as Deputy Director for Long Island. As Deputy Director, Frank responsible for the management of 73 OMRDD programs (63 residential and 10 day programs). These programs served 1,200 individuals and involved 1,400 employees. He had administrative oversight regarding maintenance, staffing, placement, disaster planning, labor relations, and quality assurance.


Frank joined Human first, Inc. in 2010 as the Associate Executive for Quality Assurance. He has played a major role in both the expansion of programs and in ensuring quality services. Recently Mr. Pennucci served as Chief Executive Officer during a transition period.  Currently Frank serves on several New York State OPWDD state-wide committees including: Mortality Review, Regulatory Reform, and the (HCBS) Waiver Transition Steering Committee.  Mr. Pennucci serves as the agency’s Corporate Compliance Officer and as the Privacy Officer.  Recently Frank was a presenter at an international conference for Developmental Disabilities in Saudi Arabia. This conference was attended by professionals from over 40 countries. Mr. Pennucci’s presentations included Quality Assurance/Quality Improvement, Risk Management, and Organizational Excellence. Frank is committed to the Human First value that “Quality of Life is our First Priority.”



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Associative Executive Director

Of Programs

Dr. Nicole Appello, PhD


Dr. Appello joined the Human First with 16 years of prior experience in the field of Developmental/ Mental Health Services.  Her life-long career has been dedicated to serving individuals with developmental and mental health disabilities.  Since joining the Human First group as the Director of Clinical Services, Dr. Appello pioneered the Clinical Department and hired an exceptional team of behavior specialists and nurses.


Dr. Appello was newly appointed to the Associate Executive of Programs. In this position the concentration of her responsibilities are managing clinical, residential and day service programs. Dr. Appello started a successful internship program at Human First Inc. in 2014 which is thriving. She also serves as a member of The Human Rights Committee and Incident Review Committee.


Dr. Appello earned a Bachelor of Science in psychology and criminology, a Master of Science in psychology and a Doctorate in clinical psychology which was obtained in 2008. She has been honored with membership in MENSA since 2006.  After obtaining her PhD, Dr. Appello continued her passion in her commitment to serve individuals in need of guidance and support.


Dr. Appello is a native New Yorker. In her free time, she coaches basketball for adolescents, volunteers in soup kitchens, and supports animal rescue programs.


Nicole is well respected by her peers, colleagues, and the individuals served by Human First. Dr. Appello has played an important role in developing and ensuring that the agency’s core values (Quality, Integrity, Respect) are embraced by all. Dr. Appello is dedicated to exceeding regulatory and professional expectations.





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 Associate Executive for

Administration & Communication

Elizabeth Stehle


Elizabeth Stehle joined Human First in June 2015 bringing over 10 years’ experience in the government and private sectors.  Her career began with the New York City Campaign Finance Board’s Candidate Services Unit as a candidate liaison working with political campaigns in ensuring their compliance with the city’s campaign finance regulations.  She became the unit’s deputy director where she supervised the unit’s operations and trainings, and worked in concert with IT department in developing and testing compliance applications for candidates.  Ms. Stehle also delivered presentations at public forums and seminars hosted by organizations such as Columbia University and the League of Women Voters.  Ms. Stehle was subsequently promoted to Project Manager for the agency’s Campaign Finance Administration and spearheaded the execution of multiple information technology projects which improved the efficacy of the enforcement division’s auditing processes. 

In 2014, Ms. Stehle joined the government relations firm Pitta Bishop Del Giorno & Giblin where she utilized her vast experience in regulatory compliance.  Her responsibilities included monitoring internal compliance with city and state lobbying laws, assisting political committees with their state, city, and federal campaign finance filings, and advising with the firm’s non-profit clients in relationship building and helping them advocate for their organization before elected officials and city agencies. 

Ms. Stehle joined Human First as the Community Relations Manager responsible for community outreach.  She organized events such as Human First’s 2015 cocktail reception and visits by elected officials such as Public Advocate Letitia James and Council Members Julissa Ferreras and Andrew Cohen.  As the Associate Executive for Administration and Communication, she is currently responsible for several aspects of Human First’s daily operations including properties, fleet management, information technology and communication, and employee training.  

Born and raised on Long Island, Ms. Stehle received a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Fordham University where she was a member of the university’s emergency medical services and an emergency medical technician.  A resident of Lindenhurst, New York, she is an avid and lifelong Mets fan, and enjoys practicing yoga in her spare time.