Joanna Pierson receives AAIDD Presidential Award
The Arc of Frederick County's Executive Director, Joanna Pierson, was awarded the 2012 AAIDD Presidential Award at the 136th annual meeting of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. The Presidential Award is presented in recognition of exceptional service to the Association. Recipients of this award are honored for their substantial contributions to advancing the Association's mission, goals, or principles. Congratulations, Joanna!
Joanna Pierson Concludes Term as AAIDD President
Joanna Pierson, Ph.D. will conclude her term as President of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD) on June 30, 2010. She was elected by AAIDD’s membership in 2008 and has served as President since July 2009.
Pierson’s term has seen the retirement of Doreen Croser, Executive Director of AAIDD for fourteen years, and led the process that resulted in the appointment of Margaret Nygren as her successor. Pierson conducted the final interviews with the Board of Directors during the search process for a new Executive Director for the association.
As AAIDD President-Elect and Conference Chair in 2008-09, Pierson was responsible for designing the programmatic aspect of the association’s June 2009 conference, “Creating Enviable Lives: the Business Plan Conference,” held in New Orleans. The conference is held annually for AAIDD’s membership of professionals in the intellectual and developmental disabilities field. Pierson introduced several innovations to the 2009 conference, including interactive cafes for young career professionals to talk informally with experienced leaders in the field. The conference also saw an increase in the involvement of self-advocates as panel members and speakers, which was a priority for Pierson in structuring the program. She also invited several Israeli professionals in the field to New Orleans to speak about emergency preparedness for individuals with disabilities.
As President, Pierson has overseen the formation of fifteen task forces targeting Areas for Future Development, which met in the latter half of 2009 and reported to the AAIDD Board of Directors in early 2010. The recommendations generated by these task forces will guide AAIDD’s future policy in the crucial areas of aging, promotion of natural supports, wellness, technology, communication, employment, and intellectual disability determination in capital cases.
Previously, Pierson served two terms as Secretary-Treasurer of the AAIDD Board of Directors. She has served on the board since 1998. Her previous AAIDD leadership positions include Chair of the Families Special Interest Group, membership on the SIGN and SIGN Implementation Committees, membership in the Assembly of Regions, Chair of AAIDD Region IX, Chair and Treasurer of the Maryland Chapter of AAIDD, President of the Social Work Division, and Chair of the Local Arrangements Committee for the DC Conference.
Since 1979, Pierson has been Executive Director of The Arc of Frederick County in Frederick, Maryland. Committed to full community inclusion for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Pierson has worked statewide and nationally to reform systems to respond better to the needs of people with disabilities and their families.
As expressed by David Beeson, the retired Executive Director of the Scott Key Center, “I have known and respected Joanna Pierson for approximately 30 years, and I can attribute much of my success in seeking to include persons with intellectual disabilities in the workforce to Joanna Pierson. She always had the knowledge, the ideas, and the determination to make things happen for persons with intellectual disabilities. The Arc of Frederick County is recognized around Maryland and the country as a leader in the disability field. I doubt that this community is aware of the place Joanna holds in the disability field nationwide, even worldwide. She has played a pivotal role in shaping public policy through her work with the American Association on Intellectual Disabilities, the Maryland Association of Community Services, The Arc of Maryland, and The Arc of the United States.”
Pierson earned a Ph.D. in Social Work from The University of Maryland and holds an M.S.W. from the University of Michigan. She has served as an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work since 1994. She has authored a book chapter on family support services and lectures nationally on support services in the community for individuals and families.
The American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities promotes progressive policies, sound research, effective practices and universal human rights for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Since 1876, AAIDD has been providing worldwide leadership in the field of mental retardation. AAIDD, (formerly AAMR -- American Association of Mental Retardation) is the oldest and largest interdisciplinary organization of professionals and citizens concerned about intellectual and developmental disabilities.
With membership over 5,000 strong in the United States and in 55 countries worldwide, AAIDD is the leader in advocating quality of life and rights for those with intellectual disabilities.
Joanna Pierson Celebrates 30 Years at The Arc!
June 2009 marked the 30th anniversary of the Executive Director for The Arc of Frederick County, Joanna Pierson, Ph.D. In June 1979, The Arc of Frederick County was ‘spinning-off’ the residential portion of their program when Dr. Pierson joined the agency as an executive director. By September of that year, the grant funding for the other employees had ended, leaving Dr. Pierson as the sole staff person at The Arc. From this challenging beginning, Joanna joined local families envisioning a future where people with developmental disabilities would create plans for their own lives, and live as independently as possible in their own communities. The Arc of Frederick County was to play a key role in the development of programs, services and supports to make that vision a reality. Charlotte Glick, a local parent served by The Arc for many years remembers that time and shared her thoughts: ”Joanna was the best thing that ever happened to the Frederick Arc, she advanced it immeasurably, and made it all happen.”
In 1980 the first summer school program offered by Frederick County Public Schools for children with developmental disabilities opened its doors. Dr. Pierson had collaborated with local parents to advocate for this valuable and necessary service. In addition, advocacy for adults with disabilities was broadened into a more individualized model and by 1981, Dr. Pierson developed what is now a state-wide program known as Service Coordination. This was a unique and powerful change in philosophy at the time, providing a model for individual planning based on the preferences and goals of the people being served. Through this program, Dr. Pierson participated in the success of the Waiting List initiative, and assisted in the successful closing of many of Maryland’s institutions, replacing an outdated model of care with supported living that connected people to their communities. As part of the new standard of service, Dr. Pierson developed the first evaluation tool in the country for people with disabilities to evaluate their own services and agencies, providing a way for their voices to be heard and respected.
Following closely behind was the program for Family Support Services, only a model in 1982, but the Developmental Disabilities Administration was persuaded to assume the funding for this new program, as well as provide service coordination to the people who remained on the Waiting List. This allowed both services to expand creating individual support services for adults in Maryland, with strong advocacy and programs directed by the dreams and goals of people with developmental disabilities. Margie Allen, President of The Arc of Frederick County Board of Directors explains The Arc’s success: “Joanna manages to keep The Arc fresh and relevant because of her creative mind and her ability to think outside the box. She encourages her staff to come up with new and exciting ways to deal with the problems of the people they serve and then she give them the space to implement those ideas.”
By 1984, Dr. Pierson had designed the model for Funding Conduit/Fiscal Intermediary Services, possibly the first in the nation to do so, and over a decade before the concept was being considered at a national level. By providing this style of service, people with disabilities and their families became responsible partners with The Arc of Frederick County in the use of the state funds allocated for their care. During this same period of time, The Arc of Frederick County became partners with Frederick County Public School in developing a successful model for inclusive education, a collaboration that has continued over 25 years.
In the 1980’s there was a federal effort to drop people with disabilities from the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) lists, which would have resulted in further poverty and lack of care. Dr. Pierson was able to implement a Social Security Administration national significance grant to repair the effects of that truly illegal effort.
As The Arc of Frederick County grew, a building was purchased in 1987, but with the rapid growth of the agency, The Arc moved to a larger facility in 1996, and a building site was purchased in 2009 to accommodate creative new programs being developed for the Frederick community. Charlotte Glick remarked, “From the beginning, we parents had big ideas, but we never envisioned the progress that has been made. We were looking for services that would grow beyond our generation, beyond our own children, and into the lives of future generations.”
The year 1997 was a significant one for people with developmental disabilities in Maryland. The state had been slowly moving toward more individualized planning, and in 1997 Dr. Pierson co-wrote a national grant to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The resulting partnership between The Arc of Frederick County and the Developmental Disabilities Administration pushed the system of care in Maryland firmly in the direction of self-determination for people with developmental disabilities. The Innovative Service Plan, designed by Dr. Pierson, set the framework for agencies to provide services based on how people truly wanted to live their lives and allowed individuals to select the style of support best suited to their needs. This groundbreaking new approach has changed how services are provided at a state and national level.
As many of the parents who helped start The Arc services began to age, a new concern developed. Families worried about what would happen to their loved ones with disabilities when the aging caregivers were no longer able to provide care. Dr. Pierson worked with these pioneering families to develop an Endowment Fund which now provides the funds necessary to assist families in making effective future and estate plans. After only a few years, this information is now available nationwide.
Through the years many programs have been developed as families and individuals express their needs. One such program is the Parents Day Out program, developed by Dr. Pierson to provide an opportunity for students to volunteer with children who have developmental disabilities, while providing some time off for the parents. This has grown into a regular once-per-month event, with the help of many volunteers and effectively connects families with other supports in their community.
By 2006, the Service Coordination program had grown tremendously with a budget of $16,000,000 and over 14,000 people served throughout Maryland. Dr. Pierson planned and implemented the separation of the two agencies which had been connected for so many years. The Arc of Frederick County and Service Coordination Inc. now operate as two successful and separate service agencies, as Dr. Pierson continues to lead the expansion of programs and services at The Arc.
Dr. Pierson’s memberships, awards and leadership positions have included:
• Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council member for over 10 years, with 5 years served as chairperson
• served on the Maryland Mortality Review Committee for 6 years reviewing the deaths of people with developmental disabilities in Maryland;
• represented people with developmental disabilities on the state health care and long term care committees to prevent managed care from being used as the mechanism for providing long term services for people with developmental disabilities (Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene 1115 Waiver Acute Care Committee (1995-1996) and Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene 1115 Waiver Long Term Care Committee (1996));
• received the highest award of the National Council of Executives of the Arc’s Executive Excellence Award (1994)
• several committees and leadership positions at the national regional and state levels since 1990, including The American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (Board of Directors since 1998, An officer since 2001)
As expressed by David Beeson, the retired Executive Director of the Scott Key Center, “I have known and respected Joanna Pierson for approximately 30 years, and I can attribute much of my success in seeking to include persons with intellectual disabilities in the workforce to Joanna Pierson. She always had the knowledge, the ideas, and the determination to make things happen for persons with intellectual disabilities. The Arc of Frederick County is recognized around Maryland and the country as a leader in the disability field. I doubt that this community is aware of the place Joanna holds in the disability field nationwide, even worldwide. She has played a pivotal role in shaping public policy through her work with the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, the Maryland Association of Community Services, The Arc of Maryland, and The Arc of the United States.”
Joanna’s philosophy of full inclusion of person with intellectual disabilities in everyday life is moving our society ever closer to the day when all of our citizens with intellectual disabilities will be seen as equals.
With dedication and a goal of improving the future for the generations to come, the vision that Joanna and a small group of parents developed 30 years ago has created a broad system of support, advocacy and strong independent lives for people with developmental disabilities that is respected in Frederick County, throughout the state and across the country. Congratulations Joanna and deep gratitude to you and all who made the vision a reality.