The American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR) is a national, nonprofit trade association representing more than 800 private community providers of services to people with disabilities.
While at the ANCOR Technology Summit on October 10, Imagine! Director of Operations Greg Wellems was kind enough to introduce Cassandra Rogers and me (Meagan Rountree) to Renee Pietrangelo retiring ANCOR Chief Executive Officer, who generously allowed us to interview her. We’d like to share with you what we discussed.
First, we asked her where she got her start and a bit about her career. Renee got her start in the medical field, worked a lot with non-profit associations, and then worked for ANCOR. She will be retiring in a month, and when asked what she’s planning next, she stated she wants to work with the National Disability Institute, with funding from private or special interest groups to expand research and intervention regarding families in poverty and disability. We then asked her about poverty, and how it impacts families with children with disabilities. She indicated that the rate of incidence of disabilities is higher in low income families, for many reasons, yet they are the least equipped to navigate it. Even those families who do not start out in poverty when they have a child with disabilities, may end up in poverty due to the incredibly high cost of disability care. Additionally, there is very little funding available to these families, and that funding is ever dwindling. Of the roughly 54% of funding available to families with children or adults with disabilities, only 7% of this funding is allocated to family caregivers. Renee stressed that the states and federal government need to take a close and critical look at how funding is distributed.
Renee also touched on Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) and discussed the massive wage disparity that is currently keeping DSPs out of the middle class, a huge barrier when trying to find and maintain quality staff. When the role of DSP is such a physically and emotionally versatile one, it’s very hard to incentivize staff to stick around when their wages are so low nationwide. Although healthcare is the fastest growing field in the US, wages are not keeping up. Renee would like to focus on training, education and improving wages for Direct Service Professionals.
Finally, we asked Renee how we might be able to follow her activity after retirement, with some of the big plans she mentioned to us as potential prospects. On this she was fairly cryptic, though she did reiterate the things she feels passionate about that she may pursue in the world of direct care and disabilities.
Cassandra and I were both very thankful to have an opportunity to talk with such an incredible leader in the field of technology, and of course, a “selfie” was in order, in the spirit of technology and a “Selfie Advocacy” presentation we watched, which we’ll discuss more in our next newsletter submission.
We’d like to say a sincere thank you to Meagan Rountree for sharing this story.