When Chief Executive Officer, Brian Hulten, says he grew up with some of the Opengate residents, he means it literally! Several of the individuals living at Opengate during the early years still call it home. Celebrating his 39th year with the agency, Brian recalls being a young man of 25 when he began on April 1,1981 working as a Direct Support Professional (DSP) at the Auerbach House.
Subsequently, Brian was approached about his future plans with Opengate and chose to continue his education. He returned to school and earned his Masters in Social Work while continuing to work at Opengate. The decision served him well and he was later promoted to the position of Director of Clinical Services.
In December of 1995, Brian was appointed the Executive Director, now titled Chief Executive Officer (CEO) after encouragement by board member Harold Auerbach. It’s the same leadership position he has held for almost 25 years.
Brian has been instrumental in the growth of Opengate from a small organization serving about 30 people, to a premier behavioral health agency. He comments that it’s important to remember the business aspect of the operations. He says, “Although it may sound indifferent, it must be noted that without the ability to function as a well-run business, we wouldn’t have the means to offer the support and resources for our individuals.” Citing the qualifications and experience of the Board of Directors, he feels their input and business oriented professionalism is a major help in successfully running the agency.
According to Brian, Opengate’s growth resulted as the sphere of support for people with disabilities improved. Advances in the science behind caring for individuals with disabilities, new and more beneficial medications, and innovative approaches to care led to an influx of people searching for placement, more services, and additional programs. The State of New York asked Opengate to expand and offer as many services as possible to create a streamlined source of programs in one location.
Along with growth comes change, and Brian says any time a change is made in the administrative structure, new ideas for cutting edge approaches are put forward building Opengate as a leader in the field.
Brian relates his fondest memory of Opengate is the ability to see people living a fulfilling life and their individual achievements. He says it is humbling when he observes their struggles, but gratifying to watch them succeed beyond expectations and know they are experiencing a good quality of life.
“What lies ahead for Opengate and our individuals is a bright future with ever expanding programs. As we continue to improve and grow, I am excited for the next 40 years.”