Thoughts from our CEO/President, Adam Pomeranz, after attending the 2019 National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities:

Last month, I had the privilege of joining about 20 other leaders from around the country and Canada at the week-long National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities at the University of Delaware. My thin Miami blood struggled a tad with the polar vortex and the single digit temperatures. Luckily, a heated bus transported us from the hotel to the university each day and I chose not to explore Newark, Delaware. However, the fellowship with other leaders, the seemingly endless lineup of brilliant speakers, and the thought provoking insight oriented activities that characterized the week made it all worthwhile.

We studied numerous trends in our field, some quite troubling. I was most concerned with the data surrounding staffing. The average range of annual turnover for direct care professionals ranges from 48-60%. As Americans age, the need for healthcare aides is soaring. However, the supply – for lack of a better word – is not keeping up with the demand. These trends specifically are forcing organizations who serve our special people to be creative and find ways to recruit and retain qualified staff to care for those we are charged to serve. Although Annandale is struggling like so many others to employ a full complement of Direct Support Professionals, our numbers trend slightly better than the country as a whole and we have already begun to recruit staff in nontraditional ways with some good results. Our pay, although still modest relative to the rising cost of living in Atlanta, is slightly higher than the national trend as well.

We also studied the current and projected expenditures of the number one funding source for services for people with developmental disabilities in America: Medicaid. As a percentage of overall government spending, it is one of the fastest growing line items. As it is currently structured, it does not appear sustainable. Although we rely on Medicaid for about 85% of the revenue in our skilled nursing facility; the vast majority of our fee for service revenue comes from the private sector. As you may know, Annandale’s model where the families pay about 75% of the cost to care for their loved one and the philanthropic community contributes the rest is a sustainable model and perhaps could be a model for policy makers and legislators to look to for guidance.

Lastly, as wonderful as the consortium was, I was the only leader representing a private campus based program. Many of the speakers, although not all, focused their advocacy efforts on total community integration and inclusion for our population. Not surprisingly, I suppose, the other leaders represented programs providing mostly Medicaid funded community based programs. Annandale and I support those who choose those options, but we also support a full array of service options to include campus based programs like ours and farm based programs in Texas and apartment based programs in Florida, to name a few. We believe in choice. I found the other leaders in my cohort to be intrigued and impressed with Annandale’s model. Programs like Annandale are growing all over the country and I encouraged the consortium to recognize the trend and at least talk about it. We’ll see.

Most importantly, I spent the week with colleagues, instructors, professors, and dynamic speakers who have dedicated their professional and personal lives to improve the lives of those with developmental disabilities. Regardless of worrying statistics and some differences of opinion, it was an inspiring week.

This month, I will be going to Washington DC to meet with the Georgia delegation on the Hill over two days to advocate for people with developmental disabilities. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Adam Pomeranz

Feb. 2019