November 23, 2021

Thanksgiving Message From Acting Commissioner Kerri Neifeld

Thanksgiving Message From Acting Commissioner Kerri Neifeld

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

As providers of essential human services, many direct support workers will be working on this holiday just like you have done on so many holidays before. For many of you who work in direct care, the traditional Thanksgiving dinner that so many others spend with their families will be spent instead assisting the people who have become more like your second families – the people you support. Your work is truly essential and is among the most important and purposeful work that a human being could ever perform.

While there is so much to be thankful for this year, not the least of which is a lifesaving vaccine that has kept so many people we support safe from severe illness or death, I am especially thankful for the direct support workforce who continue to make sacrifices, large and small, each day to care for the people we support.  All of us in the OPWDD family are indebted to you for your boundless compassion and professionalism. And I am committed to ensuring that you are rewarded for your efforts, whether it’s through the workforce investments that we recently announced as part of the American Rescue Plan Act funding or through our ongoing efforts with the state’s unions to provide relief to our state workforce.

I know that the continuing workforce shortage has made instances of unplanned overtime more common than it should be, and I want to assure all of you that I will work aggressively to build our workforce so that going forward we can ease the burden on those who have given so much for so long. 

You can also do your part to help ease the burden by getting the COVID-19 vaccine if you haven’t already or by making sure you are testing weekly to keep yourself, your family members and the people you support healthy and safe. And if you’ve already received the vaccine, the CDC recently announced that the booster is now available to everyone over age 18. Let’s continue to keep each other healthy – if you plan to travel this holiday season, please be sure to follow the CDC guidance related to travel.

As we all gather around our Thanksgiving tables this holiday, whether it’s at home or at work with your second family, let's count our blessings and give thanks for all we have accomplished in the last year despite the obstacles. Let's reflect on the smiles, the wins, and the countless bright moments we helped make possible for the people we support. Let's also give thanks that we have each other to partner with as we work though the challenges in our system and anticipate better days to come. And let’s remember those we have lost with fond memories.

Whether you are an OPWDD employee, a loved one of a person receiving services, a self-advocate, or an employee at one of our many provider agencies, this agency couldn’t fulfill its important mission of helping people with developmental disabilities live richer lives without you. I am thankful for all that you do and look forward to working with you.

My best wishes to you and yours for a happy and healthy Thanksgiving.




Kerri Neifeld
Acting Commissioner