Dear Fellow Staff—

We did it! We had no houses go on outbreak status this week, and our remaining house was released this past Friday. This is only the second time in the past ten months that we have been “quarantine free.” This really shows that our “Safe In All Settings” campaign continues to work and that the H/R push for vaccinations is having an effect. After getting over sixty people vaccinated at our clinic this week, we have now arranged for almost 350 vaccinations at NCIA. Quite an accomplishment, and I thank our staff for their participation. We are pushing to have another clinic in the coming weeks, so please call our Human Resources department to get on the list.

On that issue, I am pleased to announce that NCIA is instituting a “vaccination incentive” to encourage staff to receive the vaccination.  We will be providing up to eight hours of paid leave time for any direct care staff getting the vaccine, including those who have already been vaccinated! We are strongly encouraging all employees to get the vaccine but do recognize it is a personal health care choice. All medical evidence indicates that it protects all of us. Details on this incentive will be released this week.

Speaking of direct care staff, for over a year we have been paying an additional COVID stipend to residential counselors working in our homes as well as job coaches working with individuals on our Business Services contracts. Due to the fact that 95% of the individuals in our programs have now been vaccinated, effective April 1, 2021 we will no longer be paying the COVID stipend. However, I am pleased to announce that NCIA will be making the $1/hour COVID stipend a permanent increase to your base pay! If you were eligible to receive the stipend, your hourly rate will be automatically increased. This is our way of saying “Thank You” for your dedication over the past year.

Another NCIA incentive I want to remind everyone of is our Jerome G. Miller Scholarship Fund. This was established in 1997 as a way to honor the life and work of Dr. Jerry Miller, with whom I co-founded NCIA. I met Dr. Miller in Pennsylvania in 1974, and worked with him in closing juvenile prisons in that state for three years. In June 1977, we founded NCIA. Dr. Miller passed away in 2015, having dedicated his career to help create a society that values all people, particularly those most in need. This scholarship fund is used to help children of employees who have shown a commitment to their communities as well as a hunger for knowledge. Up to $5,000 in scholarships is awarded annually to assist students with college tuition and expenses. Applications are available now and due by May 1, 2021. Awards are announced in mid-May. For information and the application please go to www.ncianet.org/the-dr-jerome-g-miller-scholarship-fund/ I encourage all eligible students of employees to apply!

Finally, I would like to take a moment to reflect on the journey we have been on for the past year. Last week I highlighted some of the data and challenges we have all been through, and how NCIA and our program leadership have been an example for our industry. This week I would like to take a moment to reflect on the emotional and personal toll it has taken on us as individuals, and to thank and congratulate each of you for your resilience and perseverance of this life-altering event. Many of us have suffered personal losses; others have endured challenges such as not being able to visit loved ones in hospitals, seeing elderly relatives through nursing home windows, not seeing babies born, not visiting family members and other personal limitations. We will all remember this pandemic for a variety of reasons, but throughout this, as an NCIA family, we have endured.

It is reminiscent of a quote I once read:

“Sometimes it’s the journey that teaches you alot about your destination.”

Our journey is certainly not finished, and we must continue to follow safe practices, but we know our destination—to continue to follow NCIA’s mission to serving those most in need.