Frank Pepitone – Adults & Children with Learning and Developmental Disabilities Inc.
Frank Pepitone doesn’t live in the residences, schools or facilities operated by Adults & Children with Learning and Developmental Disabilities Inc. on Long Island, New York.
However, he says he guides construction and renovation projects and facilities maintenance at a combined 100 locations as though he does.
ACLD is a not-for-profit agency with facilities, schools and residences on Long Island, New York, that supports individuals with autism and learning and developmental disabilities and their families.
Since joining ACLD in August 2000, Pepitone has led a team of 24 that includes carpenters, electricians, plumbers and tradespeople. They take on tasks large and small to ensure the facilities are welcoming and safe while fitting into their communities.
Pepitone also oversees maintenance and facilities management on a contractual basis for ACLD’s community partner, the Charles Evans Center. CEC is a Federally Qualified Health Center with three Long Island clinics—including one on ACLD’s Bethpage campus—and approximately 65 residences. CEC offers services ranging from adult and pediatric medicine, dental, behavioral health, social work and housing for residents with mental health needs.
“ACLD is here to provide opportunities for children and adults with autism, and learning and developmental disabilities to pursue enviable lives,” Pepitone says. “I enjoy helping promote their independence and fostering supportive relationships within the community.”
Part of the community
In 1957, parents of children with disabilities founded the Nassau County chapter of the New York State Association for Brain Injured Children. Five years later, parents of children with disabilities in neighboring Suffolk County found a chapter of NYABIC. The chapters changed their names to the Association for Children with Learning Disabilities in the 1970s and merged in 1984.
Along with its residential services, ACLD’s adult services include day programs, vocational training and occupational, speech and physical therapies in facilities in Bethpage, Deer Park, Glen Cove, Hauppauge, Levittown and Westbury.
ACLD also owns and operates The Alan and Ellen Spiegel Children’s Center and The Kramer Learning Center for preschool education in Bay Shore. At the Spiegel facility, children ages 5-12 can enjoy school vacation and summer camps through the Great South Bay YMCA.
ACLD currently owns and operates 47 residences and two more are under construction. Pepitone has guided building 19 homes, beginning with public outreach such as seeking zoning variances from planning board, and then overseeing project planning and management.
He says ACLD typically builds homes for six adults, although one of the two new residences currently under construction is being built for seven. Pepitone expects construction to take six to eight months and for the home to be occupied in early 2024.
“Our houses are in beautiful neighborhoods,” Pepitone says. “We’re part of the communities we serve and we keep them neat while making sure residents are safe and comfortable.”
Accommodation and compliance
This isn’t ordinary housing construction, either. Pepitone says residences are built to serve specific needs, which can include access ramps for wheelchairs. Other adaptive features to meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements can include grab-bar systems, lever-handle faucets, wall-mounted sinks and handrails.
Also, interior hallways and doors are wider to accommodate residents with mobility issues. Bathrooms in all new residences are 160 square feet and have roll-in showers. The homes have sprinkler systems and 45-minute rated fire doors (20 minutes is required by New York codes) for fire protection.
Residents in ACLD’s new homes get to pick out paint colors and decor for their bedrooms. Pepitone says the organization uses exterior siding, windows and heating and cooling systems that are energy efficient.
He adds managing ACLD’s 11 non-residential facilities requires complying with regulations from agencies including the New York State Education Department and the state’s Office for People with Developmental Disabilities.
To comply, ACLD’s facilities team conducts annual tests to ensure emergency lights operate for at least 90 minutes as required by law. There are also quarterly fire alarm and sprinkler inspections by vendors and annual inspections by OPWDD and the Office of Fire Prevention and Control.
“We need to make sure everything is functional, and everything gets painted once a year, too,” he says.
A touch of technology
Pepitone and his team have a whole other set of rules and requirements for CEC’s facilities. Its residences must comply with New York State Office of Mental Health regulations and guidelines as well as federal government standards. These include annual OMH visits and annual dwelling inspections made by local officials in townships where the residences are located.
Pepitone and his team get more than 12,000 work orders annually and use Brightly software to manage work order flow, store records of completed work and provide data he presents in reports to both ACLD and CEC’s boards of directors.
“We’re all about productivity statistics and ratios,” he says.
It’s more than “statistics and ratios,” too. Pepitone not only helps care for a vulnerable clientele, he and his wife met working together at ACLD. She passed away in 2021, and his life outside his work revolves around raising their 16-year-old daughter.
“My life is my family and my work,” Pepitone says. “There are many moving parts within ACLD, so there is a lot that falls on my plate. I’m proud to do this work because of the services we provide. A lot of the people ACLD cares for do not have families, so to be able to be a part of an organization that gives them a semblance of family is incredibly gratifying.”
View this feature in the Blueprint Vol. VI 2023 Edition here.
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