Dear Fellow Staff—

Yesterday marked the 10th month “anniversary” of the beginning of the pandemic in Maryland. It’s hard to believe, but March 16, 2020 was when our Governor announced the pandemic and everything was shutting down. Restaurants were closing, schools went virtual and many social service agencies shuttered their offices. PPE equipment became a premium as everyone scrambled to get masks, gloves and cleaning supplies.

I can’t tell you how proud I am of NCIA and our employees’ response to this pandemic. Rather than close our doors and leave our clients without services, we responded proactively and invested in all of our programs. We bought chrome books for our school students, laptops for our teachers, tablets and data plans for our Vocational Training Centers and PPE equipment for all of our homes and residential service staff. As a result, we are one of the few agencies who have retained all of our necessary services and kept almost all of our staff employed.

While we certainly had a number of our staff and individuals get the COVID-19 virus, we are actually fortunate that, except for one individual who had serious pre-existing conditions, we have escaped the most serious consequences of this deadly virus. With a workforce of almost 500 staff serving close to a thousand individuals, this is truly remarkable. There are many to thank for this, and it begins with the “Safe In All Settings” protocols developed very early on and our NCIA family taking these seriously—so Thank You! Our work is not done, but the vaccine is rolling out rapidly and there really is the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel!”

Speaking of the vaccine, we have received notice that many of our employees are now eligible to receive it, including the majority of our Direct Service Professionals, our teachers and school staff, and a number of our residential homes and individuals have been scheduled for vaccination between now and the end of February. I have repeatedly said I recognize it is a personal choice as to whether or not to receive the vaccine but, in my mind, it is really the only way to protect you, your family, the ones you love and the ones we serve from contacting this deadly virus. I will personally receive the vaccine as soon as I can. A number of our employees have expressed gratitude after receiving the vaccine, all noting the ease of the process. One employee shared that he chose to get it…”because he realized the importance of protecting our individuals and his co-workers”. So please review the issue carefully with your medical professionals. If any employee has any issues signing up for the vaccine, please contact our H/R department for assistance. Additionally, all individuals with disabilities are eligible to be vaccinated. The residential team under Rochelle Matthew’s leadership is aggressively moving to sign up everyone in our residential program for the vaccination. We truly feel a responsibility to protect the people in our program and we thank the residential and HR leadership in making this a priority.

In prior updates, I have mentioned many of the “Unsung Heroes” who have provided guidance and leadership to NCIA during this pandemic. I would be negligent if I didn’t recognize our Chief Operating Officer, Carole Argo, who has helped navigate NCIA through these troubled waters. From dealing with various health departments, to tracking all staff and individuals who got COVID, to coordinating our program efforts, to helping manage our budgets, Carole has worked tirelessly to ensure NCIA programs continued to provide quality services to our panoply of populations. Thank you Carole!

In this time of change in our country, and as we celebrate the Martin Luther King holiday, I thought it appropriate to remember one of his quotes:

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

We at NCIA are enduring this time of challenge, and, if we maintain our resolve, will continue to do so.