This month, Daniel Openden, Ph.D, BCBA-D, begins as the new president and CEO of the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC), a move announced earlier this year as part of SARRC’s leadership succession plan. Dr. Openden has served as SARRC’s vice president and clinical services director since 2007.  He succeeds Jeri Kendle as president.

“With 1 in 64 children in Arizona impacted by autism and 1 in 88 across the U.S., our work at SARRC is in greater demand than ever before. We are modifying our treatments to meet the developmental needs of younger children since the field is rapidly progressing at identifying infants and toddlers with autism. At the same time, children with autism quickly become adults with autism, so SARRC will continue to be a leader in the development of innovative programs that support independence and inclusion in the community,” said Openden.

The next 100 days represent an exciting and historic time as the organization explores the replication of SARRC’s nationally recognized best practices pre-school program; support the unique and unmet needs of adult women with autism through a women’s empowerment program; grow SARRC’s social enterprise programs, such as the Beneficial Beans Café at the Scottsdale Civic Center Library; and advance plans for an adult residential transition program. SARRC’s research team is also underway on 13 pharmaceutical trials and developing a web-based application accessed through smartphones—the Naturalistic Observation Diagnostic Assessment (NODA)—to accelerate early diagnoses, particularly for families that live outside of large metropolitan areas.

Dr. Openden was recruited to SARRC from the renowned Koegel Autism Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Since beginning at SARRC, he has created financial sustainability and growth across SARRC’s clinical programs. In addition, he has developed an innovative, cutting-edge inclusive preschool program recognized as a “best practices” model by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS); initiated SARRC’s Remote Telemedicine Program to provide services to families living outside of Maricopa County; and serves the autism community nationally through his leadership on the Scientific Council of the Organization for Autism Research (OAR) and Autism Speaks Family Services Committee. He is also a founding member of the Council on Autism Services (CAS), a networking organization that brings together presidents, CEOs, executive directors, clinical directors, and program directors to share high level information and identify gaps facing autism service delivery organizations.

“It is truly an honor to lead such an outstanding team and, together with our Board of Directors and the generosity of SARRC’s donors and partners, serve the autism community. We are all committed to providing individuals with autism and their families with greater hope through our research, programs and services,” said Openden.

Kendle, who served as SARRC’s president since 2009, has been part of SARRC since its inception, formerly serving on SARRC’s Board of Directors and as its Vocational & Life Skills Academy director. Kendle is continuing her involvement with SARRC as Social Enterprise Strategist and will focus on the establishment, expansion and replication of SARRC’s innovative social enterprise programs.