Noble CBDD Receives Three-Year Accreditation Award


CALDWELL – A three-year accreditation award, the highest possible term, has been given to the Noble County Board of Developmental Disabilities for the work it does to support people with disabilities.


A team from the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities completed a comprehensive review this fall that included interviews with people served and families whose supports are provided, coordinated or funded by the County Board.

Noble DD Board Superintendent Stephen Williams credited the Board’s emphasis on relationships as the key to its success.


“Relationships are what matter in life and we focus on building them with the people we support and our partners who provide their services,” Williams said. “We get to know people and put our efforts into helping each person live a great life.”


All areas of the County Board were reviewed, including personnel, service and support, health and safety, incident reporting and how effective the Board is.


The Noble County Board of DD serves over 100 people, coordinating and/or funding supports like early intervention (birth to three), school-age assistance, transition from school to work (ages 14 to 22), job-related skill development, employment, residential, respite and transportation.



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The Community SSA: A New Way of Supporting People

The BHN Alliance has become known for its out of the box thinking and strong belief that the least intrusive path is the most beneficial to bettering the lives of those with disabilities. One of the ways this shows is through the newly created Community SSA position.

Tracy Johnston, who serves in the role, works with people who meet eligibility requirements, but are living relatively independent lives in the community.

“We help people maintain the independence that they love and need without interfering in their lives,” Tracy said.

Tracy does this by acting as a liaison between the person and his or her respective life plans. That can mean coordinating a ride back and forth from work to finding someone a new place to live. Whether it is reaching out to other agencies or contacting community organizations, Tracy is there to support those who just need direction, a helping hand, and a bit of perspective.

Tracy and Junior 09-2020.jpg

Community SSA Tracy Johnston (right) is a friend that Junior can rely on to help him get the things he wants out of life.

Her work is a crucial part of the BHN Alliance vision and is the next step in the evolution of a more integrated and cutting-edge service delivery system across Belmont, Harrison, and Noble counties.

“This Community Support model emerged after we realized that many people just need a little assistance in getting what they want out of life,” said BHN Alliance Superintendent Stephen Williams. “We connect them with community resources without enrolling them in specific services they don’t want or need.”

Tracy sees herself as more than just another support to those eligible for services.

“My favorite part of the job is helping people understand that I am their friend and will help whenever they need. Whether it be just to talk or to help them connect to resources, I am there without being overly intrusive.”

And that’s what Tracy does each and every day.

Direct Support Professional Recognition Week September 13-19, 2020


Special Olympics State Summer Games Cancelled

Because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Special Olympics Ohio has extended the suspension of sports training and competition, including the State Summer Games, through July 6, 2020. Click on the link below to learn more.


EI Team Leader Receives OACB Award


Lori Wells, the Early Intervention Team Leader for the BHN Alliance, has received the Five-Star Customer Experience Award from the Ohio Association of County Boards of Developmental Disabilities.

The Five-Star Customer Experience Award recognizes a county board employee who goes above and beyond in supporting people served by their county board. Wells received the award at the 36th Annual OACB Convention on December 5, 2019 at Columbus.

Wells, who is the Early Intervention Team Leader for the BHN Alliance (Belmont-Harrison-Noble County Boards of Developmental Disabilities), is described as someone who has an acute understanding of what families need and goes above and beyond in service to them.

According to Holly Weatherson, EI Contract Manager for the BHN Alliance, Wells is “masterful” at supporting families, always willing to provide what they need, well beyond normal business hours. One of those needs is met through her credential as a Certified Infant Massage Therapist, a skill that can console babies dealing with the trauma of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.

“Lori has defined what it means to provide specialized instruction to families whose infants and toddlers have disabilities or developmental delays,” Weatherson said. “She can relate to families and their challenges and is, in truth, their ally.”

As the EI Team Leader, Wells mentors and supports an entire team of developmental specialists and speech and language, occupational and physical therapists serving over 100 families with evidence-based early intervention supports.

Early Intervention is a statewide system that provides coordinated services to parents of infants and toddlers (ages birth to three) with disabilities or developmental delays in Ohio. To make a referral, call 1-800-755-4769.


Photo courtesy OACB

Noble County Soccer, Noble County Board of DD
Partner to Provide Safe Play for All

Reprinted with Permission from The Journal-Leader, Caldwell, OH
July 22, 2019

For the first time, Noble County Soccer will be able to offer a safe, fun and educational soccer season for the local youth that have developmental disabilities. This would not be possible without the support of the Noble County Board of Developmental Disabilities. The Noble County Board of DD was able to provide Noble County Soccer with funds to acquire the necessary safety equipment for these young athletes. Noble County Soccer is so honored to be able to provide this soccer experience to the youth of the county ages Pre-K through 8th grade, regardless of the player’s experience or abilities. In the past, families that had athletes with developmental disabilities would have to travel outside of the county to find an organization that could fulfill the safety needs required for these young athletes to be able to participate in any type of sporting event. Thank You Noble County Board of DD.

For any questions regarding the Developmental Disabilities soccer season, please contact Keith Wilson (NCS Board Member) 304-966-2173, or Adam Chandler (NCS Board Member) 740-581-2063.


Pictured left to right: Corey Archer (NCS), Adam Chandler (NCS), Jen Hayes (NCS), Beth Guiler (Noble County Board of DD), Keith Wilson (NCS), Scott Stritz (NCS), and Shawn Stritz (NCS).

Pool Pass Winner


Fred Spence of Caldwell was the lucky winner of a 2020 season pass to the Happy Time Pool, a giveaway held at the County Fair by the Noble County Board of DD. Fred and his 10-year-old grandson, Kaiden, also pictured, are frequent pool visitors, so he could not be happier to have won a pass for next year. Congratulations to Fred and Kaiden!

BHN Superintendent Receives Leadership Award


Stephen L. Williams, Superintendent of the Belmont, Harrison and Noble County Boards of Developmental Disabilities, has received the 2018 Kenneth Legats Visionary Leadership Award from the Ohio Association of County Boards of Developmental Disabilities.

The award is presented annually to an executive who, over a career of more than 20 years, has shown high ideals, vision, and moral leadership in the administration of services for people with developmental disabilities.

Williams received the award at the OACB 35th annual convention in Columbus on November 30, 2018.

“I am humbled and grateful to be recognized in this way, but awards aren’t individual in nature,” Williams said. “I have a great team that strives to provide the best possible service to the people we support.”

In the nomination, Williams was described as “a thoughtful and passionate leader who is focused on building teams, enhancing relationships and ensuring success for the future. Through his humor, calm and focus, he brings out the best of those around him and always leads with an eye on the future and long-term success.”

Williams began his career with the Belmont County Board of DD in 1988 as a case manager, working in various leadership positions through the years until being named Superintendent of the Belmont, Harrison and Noble County Boards of Developmental Disabilities (BHN Alliance) in 2012. He is the only superintendent in Ohio who serves as superintendent of three county boards of developmental disabilities.

Noble DD Board Receives Three-Year Accreditation

The Noble County Board of Developmental Disabilities has been accredited by the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities for the quality of services provided to county residents.

A six-member team from the state department completed a comprehensive review in November that included interviews with individuals and families who receive supports. A three-year accreditation was earned, the maximum possible term.

Superintendent Stephen Williams credited the successful review to the way the Board views what it does.

“Relationships are the foundation of quality supports and that is our focus in everything we do,” Williams said. “We recognize the uniqueness of every person and family served and that means we are better able to help them get what they want out of life.”

The Board coordinates supports for more than 100 eligible children and adults with developmental disabilities. Supports include early intervention (birth to age three), school-age assistance, transition from school to work (ages 14 to 22), job-related training and employment, residential, transportation, and respite.

Wellness initiative kicks off this fall

A new initiative designed to promote the physical and mental well-being of people with disabilities will kick off this fall across Belmont, Harrison and Noble counties.

The BHN Alliance Wellness Fund has been created to support community-based wellness activities designed to get people moving in the community.

The fund operates as a grant. People choose what they would like to do, sign up and pay for the activity and then submit receipts/paid invoices to the County Board for reimbursement. It’s that simple.

The Wellness Fund provides reimbursement for activities like:

  • Fitness facilities / gyms / pools

  • Weight loss programs [Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, etc.]

  • Healthy Cooking Classes

  • Smoking cessation programs

  • Registration fees for healthy walks/runs

  • Fitness classes like yoga, Zumba and others

  • Community team activities like softball, Pickleball, etc.

“The people we support are interested in healthy living and the Wellness Fund will provide a means for them to get active by joining community-based health and fitness activities,” said BHN Alliance Superintendent Stephen Williams.

If you are a person served by the Belmont, Harrison or Noble County Boards of Developmental Disabilities and would like to learn more, contact the Service and Support Department at 740-695-7433.

Trauma-Informed Care is central to way

supports are coordinated in BHN Alliance

People with disabilities experience more abuse than others, yet their needs often go undertreated or minimized. That means the trauma continues to have an impact on their lives years after the abuse occurred.

The BHN Alliance understands the role trauma plays in the lives of many of the people it supports. That is why it adopted a Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) approach in 2016. Darlene Pempek, Director of Community Supports, led the effort. In her work with families, Dar realized that the immediate crisis or distress someone was experiencing had underlying circumstances.

“As we got to know people, we learned that past traumatic experiences were still impacting them,” Pempek said. “Those lived experiences had to be taken into account for people to become well.”


Trauma-Informed Care requires a system-wide understanding of trauma. The three county boards in the Alliance offered full support for this way of serving people with disabilities. The goal at the beginning was to make sure supports took into account how past traumas impacted children and adults.

Pempek attended trauma trainings and returned with strategies for the BHN Alliance SSAs, who began including TIC approaches to the supports they were coordinating. It made a huge difference. Once a person’s past trauma was identified, it became easier to identify the types of supports that would not only be effective, but would also make the person feel safe so they could heal and thrive.

In June 2016, the BHN Alliance was invited to join Tristate Trauma Network’s Trauma-Informed Learning Community. Pempek, Director of Transition Adam Nicholoff, SSA Corianne Sanders and Communications Coordinator Pamela McCort participated in the Learning Community where leading trauma experts provided training and support over the course of a year.

SSA Corianne Sanders said the training had an impact on her.

“I realize that everyone can be affected by trauma in some way. This knowledge allows me to be more intentional in my interactions with others, which makes me a better person and a better SSA,” Sanders said.

The core implementation team now directs activities designed to create an educated and informed workforce. Trainings by Mary Vicario and Carol Hudgins-Mitchell Finding Hope Consulting have taken place. A Belmont CommUNITY was created, comprised of partners from several agencies who regularly meet to discuss ways they can become more compassionate and understanding in the work they do. Trainings on trauma-informed care are offered by the BHN Alliance TIC Core Implementation Team and been provided to local law enforcement, the staff at a local hospital and public school.

“The effects of trauma continue long after the traumatic experience has occurred and that is why it is important for all of us in the system of support to treat people with compassion,” Pempek said.

“Healing, resiliency and hope are possible for children and adults when trauma-informed care is practiced by everyone.”

BHN Alliance Director Named Child Advocate of the Year

Darlene Pempek, Director of Community Supports for the BHN Alliance, received the Child Advocate of the Year honor today at the Annual Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Lunch held at Undo’s West in St. Clairsville.

The recognition was given by the Belmont County Department of Job and Family Services and the Belmont County Commissioners.

Pempek is well-known across the county from her work in the Commissioners’ office from 1989-2005, serving as the Board of Commissioners’ Clerk for 10 years.

Pempek joined the Belmont County Board of Developmental Disabilities in 2005 where she oversees the coordination of supports for families of children with disabilities in Belmont, Harrison and Noble counties (BHN Alliance). She also represents the Alliance at the county Clusters where she collaborates with the other agencies to serve youth at risk.


Darlene Pempek is shown accepting the Child Advocate of the Year Award from Vince Gianangeli, Director of the Belmont County Department of Job and Family Services. Pempek is the Director of Community Supports for the BHN Alliance and the award was bestowed on her at the Annual Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Luncheon held April 6 at Undo’s West in St. Clairsville. Also pictured with Pempek and Gianangeli are, from left: Stephen L. Williams, Superintendent of the BHN Alliance, and Commissioner J.P. Dutton, and Judge Frank Fregiato (far right), who was emcee of the program.

In presenting the award, Belmont County DJFS Director Vince Gianangeli noted Pempek’s strong support of county agencies when she was still in the commissioners’ office. He also pointed out the influence of Pempek’s older brother, the late Chet Kalis, who served as Director of Belmont DJFS and later District Manager for the State of Ohio Job and Family Services. He said that she credits him with helping her find her purpose and calling through his example of selfless commitment to others.

In accepting the honor, Pempek said she was blessed to be part of a collaborative team across Belmont County that works together for the benefit of children.

“In order for effective treatment to occur and families to remain together, coordination is imperative,” Pempek said.

She noted the positive influence one person can have on an abused child looking for hope.

“Any one of us can be that hope for a child – any one of us by our actions, our words, can be the one that touches a young life and enlightens that hope,” Pempek said.

Pempek and her husband, Gary, are the parents of two adult daughters and grandparents to two grandsons.




County Boards of DD Mark 50 Years of Support

The Ohio Legislature created a unique and vital resource for people with developmental disabilities in 1967 and that resource continues to be a lifelong support 50 years later.

Always There 50 YearsOhio’s County Boards of Developmental Disabilities are celebrating their 50th Anniversary in 2017. The year-long theme - Always There - reflects the continuity of support, promotion of opportunity and history of partnership county boards have offered to the people they serve throughout the past, in the present and in the future.

Throughout the next year, the
Belmont, Harrison and Noble County Boards
of Developmental Disabilities (BHN Alliance)
will be sharing stories of what people are
achieving in their community.

“Our goal with any effort like this is to build awareness and understanding around what people with disabilities are achieving and how we are there to support their efforts,” said BHN Alliance Superintendent Stephen Williams.

County Boards are responsible for the coordination and funding of quality supports and services people need and this can begin at birth and continue throughout a person’s entire life. Supports funded or provided by the county boards include early intervention for infants and toddlers with developmental delays; transition services to help young adults successfully move from school to work; job-related skill training and employment for adults; and personal growth, residential and transportation services.

Williams noted that some people have intensive needs requiring constant care while others are more independent, living, working and contributing to their community with minimal supports from the County Board.

“We believe in the inherent right of all people to make their own decisions about what they want out of life,” Williams said. “Our mission then is to be there as a support as they seek what matters the most to them.”

The BHN Alliance is a partnership between the three county boards that share a person-centered approach to identifying, coordinating and delivering supports to more than 700 eligible children and adults in Belmont, Harrison and Noble counties.