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Cathy Varano joins the CDNY executive leadership team with active experience in the field of developmental disabilities since 1978. As a young person who loved the outdoors and staying active, she volunteered at the CT State Special Olympic games in high school and never looked back. She began her career as a student intern during college at a community-based organization serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), an opportunity that influenced her desire to learn more about the people she worked with. It didn’t take long for this work to become her passion and full-time career. Beginning as a Direct Support Professional influenced her desire to lead teams, understand and affect change, and advocate for individuals with IDD and the people who support them.

Cathy has a unique perspective, having also worked for the New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) as a State Operations Director, followed by serving as the Associate Deputy Commissioner for State Operations. In that position, she was responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations for residential, day, and employment supports across the State. Her most recent position of Chief Program Officer for the NY Alliance for Inclusion and Innovation allowed her the opportunity to advocate for individuals with complex needs, focusing on greater access to individual supports and regulatory reform across the sector. A primary focus in each position has been on organizational and team development.

Cathy earned a bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Western CT State University and a Master’s degree in Public Health Administration from Pace University; however, she readily acknowledges so much of her knowledge comes from people she’s met along the way.

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