Robert M. Gettings (RMG) Compass Award

About the Compass Award

The Robert M. Gettings (RMG) Compass Award recognizes the achievements of individuals who, while working in the private sector, have made significant contributions to the development of publicly funded state service systems for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities through research, the design of new service models, training, technical assistance, and consultation.

Past Award Recipients

Barbara Brent (2022)

NASDDDS is pleased this year to award Barbara Brent, retired director of state policy for NASDDDS, the Robert M. Gettings Compass Award. Barbara Brent dedicated more than 10 years to the association providing technical assistance to states; advancing the community of practice which promotes supporting families across the lifespan; and, contributing to a variety of HCBS ventures to ensure person centered, culturally appropriate, and innovative services to support people with I/DD and their families.

Before joining NASDDDS in 2012, Barbara spent six years as the state director for the Arizona Division of Developmental Disability Services, supporting more than 30,000 children and adults with developmental disabilities, along with their amilies. She oversaw the administration of over 500 home and community-based service providers, the fiscal intermediary system, acute care contracts, fiscal operations, rate setting, and community partnership initiatives.

Barbara also served as the deputy director of the Arizona Division of Developmental Disabilities from 2001-2006, overseeing all community operations, support coordination, and provider systems. Barbara also worked in Tennessee, first as the state’s education coordinator for the state Division of Developmental Disabilities, moving into the position of ssistant deputy commissioner, and then into the state director position as the deputy commissioner.

During her tenure in the state of Tennessee, she presided over both community and ICF services across the state and
oversaw systems redesign, waiver development, and implementation to come into compliance with DOJ lawsuits.

Robin Cooper (2020)

On June 30, 2020, Robin Cooper retired from NASDDDS. During her time at NASDDDS, Robin made countless contributions to the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities and to our nation’s Medicaid home and community based service delivery system. Along the way, she mentored hundreds of eager state staff to understand the anachronisms and complexity of Title XIX of the Social Security Act, enabling informed, creative policy-making to support individuals in having good lives in their communities. Robin not only taught the nuts and bolts of Medicaid and HCBS – she taught that Medicaid can be a beautiful and powerful tool to enable freedom and autonomy, and that understanding its intricacies enables thoughtful policy making on behalf of millions of Americans.  To this day, Robin’s primary commitment remains to amplify the voices of individuals with lived experience, ensuring that policy is informed by – not dictated to – individuals with disabilities and their families.

In addition to nurturing a generation of leaders in our field, Robin Cooper’s fingerprints can be identified on almost every advancement in the federal HCBS program since the mid-1980s. Robin’s penchant for the particulars of Medicaid, coupled with her unparalleled kindness and relationship skills, made her a trusted colleague and resource to Federal and State Medicaid officials alike. Robin Cooper has led the “who’s who” in Medicaid HCBS in modern times, providing education and testimony which has influenced power brokers from the halls of Congress to the Hubert Humphrey Building.

Our nation’s long term services and supports system has been indelibly shaped by the brilliance of Robin Cooper and our field of intellectual and developmental disabilities is far better for it – just as a reminder, systems serving individuals with I/DD were largely “balanced” by 1995 with the rest of the country following suit in 2013. This timeline is in many ways attributed to the visionary leadership of Robin and others who showed states the power of HCBS in meeting the needs of individuals with I/DD, while enabling a full, enriching community life.

Nancy Thaler (2019)

Ms Thaler’s career began in 1971 serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities both in the private sector and in the public sector. She began working in Pennsylvania provider agencies in the early years of community services as a direct care worker, a houseparent and in a range of supervisory positions. In 1987, Ms Thaler joined the Pennsylvania state government and served until 2003, for the last ten of those years as the Deputy Secretary of what is now the Office of Developmental Programs. She returned to the position and served again from 2015 through 2018. Between her two stints as Pennsylvania’s state director, Ms Thaler served as the Director of Quality Improvement for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) from 2003-2006 and was responsible for developing federal waiver application and oversight of state-operated Medicaid home and community-based services waiver programs. From 2007-2016 she served as the Executive Director of the National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services (NASDDDS). Nancy is currently working as a Special Assistant to the Secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services to expand and develop services for children with complex medical care needs so they can live at home with family.

David Braddock (2018)

November 2018, David was the Senior Associate Vice President of the University of Colorado System, Executive Director of the Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities, and the Coleman-Turner Chair in Cognitive Disability in the CU Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine for 17 years.