John Nicolich: Years of Dedication

Opengate is proud to have John Nicolich, Esq. as its longest serving Board of Directors member. In the early 1980’s he was invited to the position by the then chairman and has been active ever since.

Not everyone that is involved with Opengate has a loved one who is served here, but Mr. Nicolich certainly performs his duties with a compassion for our individuals. The spark of his ongoing interest in our success is his sister who had developmental disabilities. Inspired by her, he made the decision to serve as an Opengate Board member.

Although his sister lived at home and attended Day Programs at another agency, he saw the many benefits of the programs she attended because they were the highlight of her life. After his sister aged out of the system, he and his family recognized the need for resources for adults with distinct disabilities at differing stages and with separate needs.

“One of my fondest memories of past years at Opengate were barbeques at the farm of Patrick Grasso. All the staff and residents were invited for a day of fun, good company, and good food. The time spent at the farm was always enjoyable.”

When Mr. Nicolich came to Opengate there were only 33 residents being served compared to over 100 today, along with 40 to 50 more from the area who take advantage of our Day Programs. Opengate only had one location in the early 80’s in Somers, NY. Through the years the agency has increased its  houses and programs throughout the community, and also added a medically frail unit for those residents who require it.

With his legal background, Mr. Nicolich has been instrumental in addressing some of the issues Opengate faces. Although he is not in the position as our legal counsel, his training has been of great assistance to our Board.

“In my opinion, one of the most critical accomplishments at Opengate has been the expansion into the community with housing and programs allowing individuals to enjoy – and contribute to – their local area.”

Some of the challenges he has witnessed over the years are funding issues, as well as additional and stricter government regulations. Mr. Nicolich believes we must advocate for what’s best for the population we serve, that they deserve quality services provided through government resources. He also supports the ongoing campaign to increase wages for Direct Support Professionals.

All of us at Opengate sincerely thank John Nicolich for his decades of service on its Board of Directors and his numerous contributions to the success of the agency. – Brian Hulten, CEO

To stay apprised of the activities taking place at Opengate we invite you to follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and LinkedIn, as well as subscribe to our Newsletter and Blog.

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Developmental Disability Awareness Month 2019

Since 1987 the month of March signifies Developmental Disability Awareness Month to expand public awareness of the issues facing Americans with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Traditionally, the month is seen as a time to educate and communicate to communities about specific needs of individuals with IDD and how we can improve their quality of life.

When reflecting on the progress that has been made in past years throughout the disability community, we can not forget that each person in that community is one of a kind with singular talents, abilities, and expertise.

This year OPWWD is spearheading the campaign “One of a Kind” to highlight unique contributions of individuals, families, caregivers, and agencies throughout the month of March on an interactive calendar.

Every day, an online calendar will reveal a new person or people with developmental disabilities, encouraging visitors to reflect upon their individuality and how their contributions enhance the fabric of our communities and our state.  Visit the calendar daily here:

Some of the issues facing individuals with IDD are inclusion in employment opportunities, community living, educational possibilities, and self-advocacy. And, again, each individual’s needs in these areas are “one of a kind” and must be addressed as such.

We are encouraged to experience progress and its ability to offer more freedom and independence to individuals who are able to take advantage of its benefits. Awareness, acceptance, and assistance for people with disabilities greatly adds to inclusion and changing public perceptions.

To participate in this year’s Developmental Disability Awareness Month, share the stories about Opengate and its individuals, and encourage others in your circle to become aware of our incredible programs.

Social media is the best way to quickly circulate our information. Opengate is active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn and we hope you are following and sharing our posts there.

Throughout the month of March use the hashtags #DDAwareness19 and #OneofaKind19 to show support as well as help educate those who may not be informed about the wonderful community of individuals we serve.

To stay apprised of the activities taking place at Opengate we invite you to follow us on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, as well as subscribe to our Newsletter and Blog.

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International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day was established in 1911 as a global day celebrating the countless accomplishments of women.

The world has witnessed significant changes in not only women’s rights, but women’s visibility as role models.

Opengate honors all women at our agency today by bestowing them with a rose to symbolize their diversity, their inspiration, and our appreciation of all their achievements.

To stay apprised of the activities taking place at Opengate we invite you to follow us on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn, as well as subscribe to our Newsletter and Blog.

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Employee of the Month, February 2019

Congratulations to Sashan Lee for being selected the Employee of the Month

Sashan Lee joined the staff at Opengate in 2016 after earning her Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Monroe College.

Her background work has assisted her in using great judgement skills and becoming a dependable asset to the agency. Sashan rarely takes a day off and always reports with a positive attitude towards individuals and other staff members.

Sashan is recognized by her peers as being a an integral part of the team in the Day Habilitation Program and also assists in the Residential Program when coverage is necessary.

Congratulations to Sashan Lee from the staff of Opengate for being nominated and elected Employee of the Month by your fellow employees.

To stay apprised of the activities taking place at Opengate we invite you to follow us on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn, as well as subscribe to our Newsletter and Blog.

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LIFEPlan Member and Family Advisory Council (MFA) Seeking Applicants

LIFEPlan CCO welcomes it members and families to become part of the new Member and Family Advisory Council (MFA Council. The MFA Council addresses ongoing interests and needs of individuals receiving disability services.

Six regional Advisory Councils, comprised of 8-10 LIFEPlan CCO NY members, parents and caregivers, meet quarterly to review outcomes and advise leadership regarding care coordination policies and operations, and to engage in relevant education, training, and advocacy initiatives. Council members can expect to spend up to 2 hours of time/month on Council business. Meetings can be attended via teleconference.

Central New York Capital Southern Tier North Country

Hudson Valley Mohawk Valley


• Six regions across NYS.

• 8-10 volunteer members per council.

• Councils meet quarterly.

• Diverse representation of self-advocates, parents, and caregivers.

• Council members must be enrolled with LIFEPlan, or family of a LIFEPlan individual.

• Council Members serve a 1 year term.

Each council is a diverse mix of self-advocates, parent and family members from various socioeconomic, ethnic, culture and disability groups. Council members are provided with information on OPWDD services and processes, and on pertinent topics within their region and across NYS. As advocates of LIFEPlan CCO services, council members actively engage organizations within their communities about care coordination topics and consult LIFEPlan staff regarding relevant education and training for LIFEPlan member and their families.

LIFEPlan is actively seeking applicants for the 6 regional MFA Councils. Applications are available on the LIFEPlan CCO website and will be accepted until February 28, 2019

Application on LIFEPlan website at this link:

OR Download and print to mail in application:

For more information, contact or call Janelle Fields at 315-565-2612

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April is Autism Awareness Month
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