Dear Fellow Staff—

It’s hard to believe, but we are in the last month of 2020, a year none of us will ever forget. It has certainly been challenging on a number of fronts, but by all accounts our NCIA family will have endured. Our program leadership has been valiant, keeping our doors open, pivoting to various hybrid models and making sure we didn’t let down the populations we are committed to serving.

Having said that, this month we will face the most significant challenges of the year. It is the Holiday season, and the temptation to let our guard down and compromise our safety is enormous, and comes at a time when the impact of COVID-19 is expanding geometrically in virtually every jurisdiction. So I am imploring you to maintain the safety protocols we have all been following. We have gotten this far, and we need to navigate through this month together. A vaccine is getting closer to us, so please endure a bit longer!

At NCIA, we are still waiting for any delayed post-Thanksgiving numbers, but so far it seems we have held our own. We have four houses on outbreak status and with any luck two of them should come off in the next week or two. Many of our staff who had tested positive are now able to return to work, but we still have a handful out recuperating and they remain in our thoughts and prayers. Our Adult Residential staff and job coaches received a notice this week that we are increasing our monitoring and implementing enforcement procedures to ensure staff follow our safety protocols. It disappoints me, but we still have staff in our residences and vehicles who are not wearing their masks and face shields. Our quality assurance team and managers will be strictly monitoring our programs both electronically and in person. Any staff who is acting in an unsafe manner will lose their COVID stipend for the pay period. We have worked diligently to afford this stipend, and I know it has been appreciated, but we must keep each other and our individuals safe. To those employees who have followed protocols throughout this entire process, know we notice your efforts and appreciate your dedication. For the first time in nine months I believe the finish line is in sight, and we have to make the final push to get there.

This would normally be the time for NCIA to have its annual Holiday celebration, but nothing is “normal” so we have to forgo it this year and hope we can celebrate next year. At the end of this week we will be awarding a modest holiday stipend for our direct care, administrative and support staff. Full time staff will receive a $100 check and part-time staff will receive $50. Please use it to do something special for yourself and your family.

There continues to be a lot of great news out of our programs! In Adult Residential Services, we successfully “graduated” our first individual out of our Behavioral Respite home. This individual came to us in a crisis situation from another provider, and through intensive behavioral intervention we were able to stabilize her, and 17 days later she was able to return to her existing provider.

Our Youth In Transition School continues to face its challenges with dedication and commitment. We have one of our younger students living in a motel because no group home will accept him; we have another student whose Christmas list includes diapers and toys for her baby. Despite these obstacles, the theme of the week for our school team was “consistency”—showing our students NCIA’s principle of unconditional care—that we will be there for them.

Our HJH Vocational Training Centers continue to impress. In Charlotte we had four individuals pass their Class B Commercial Driver’s License tests and can now get employed, and in Baltimore we will be graduating over 80 individuals this month. It’s simply amazing the lives we are changing throughout all of our programs at NCIA.

In closing, I recognize we have been on a journey through this pandemic for almost nine months, and it has certainly been a challenge. I am reminded of a quote:

 “To get through the hardest journey we need take only one step at a time, but we need to keep on stepping.”

That is what we need to do at NCIA—keep moving forward so 2021 will be a great recovery year. Stay safe, and remember to protect yourself, your family, your friends and those we support.