URGENT: Protect Our Funding!

Proposed OPWDD Cuts Will Be Devastating For NY’s Most Vulnerable

For over 50 years Opengate’s mission has been to provide a high quality of life to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). Our programs have brought individuals out of the darkness of institutionalized care to a place where they may participate fully in the community and be involved in decisions regarding their health, well-being and happiness.

We must not take a step back!

Once again, we are facing proposed funding cuts under a State Plan Amendment and a 1915(c) waiver amendment proposed by DOH and OPWDD for the fiscal year 2021. Its passage will mean a loss of millions designated for the care of I/DD residents in New York.

Scores of legislators and advocates are demanding OPWDD reverse these cuts on the basis that it will financially threaten service providers already managing the repercussions of COVID-19. Furthermore, they point out that agencies are required to follow guidelines set forth by CDC and OPWDD, and are forced to purchase personal protection equipment, medical and sanitizing supplies at a premium price with no reimbursement.

(Scroll to the bottom to read official letters.)

Advocates emphasize the hardships created for essential front line and clinical staff members who care for our vulnerable individuals. Providers offering supplementary compensation to well-deserving staff are especially hard hit during a global pandemic when budgets and donations are already stretched thin. 

Opengate is vehemently opposed to OPWDD’s proposed cuts and we need you to be part of the solution. Please take the time to contact your legislators and let them know you stand against funding cuts that will possibly devastate the quality of care for I/DD individuals.

Go to this link and lend your voice in opposition of these measures to cut essential funding: https://www.cpstate.org/advocacy/

Read letters from NY Senator David Carlucci and Assembly Member Aileen Gunther:

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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Donors Step Up to Help During COVID-19

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic Opengate stretched our resources to cover the expense of personal protective equipment, medical and cleaning supplies. We put out the call for help, and it was swiftly answered.

To those from our community who stepped in to help us and provide vital items, we are extremely grateful and would like to recognize their generosity.

  • Penny Howell of Croton Couture Curtains donated 100 hand made cloth masks
  • Tammy from the Town of Somers donated hand sanitizer
  • Lucy of Westchester County Department of Emergency Services in Valhalla donated gowns, gloves, goggles, masks, and face shields
  • Ginny Vreeland, an Opengate parent and Board Member, organized a donation from PeaceWork at her church, Jesse Lee Memorial United Methodist Church in Ridgefield, CT who provided hand made masks, hepa filters, wipes, gloves and lots of encouragement
  • Somers Mask Army –a group of Somers parents provided homemade masks
  • Peter DeLucia from Westchester County Department of Health in Mt. Kisco who provided guidance and encouragement 
  • Dr. Karen Gennaro, Opengate Medical Director, donated 565 N95 face masks.
  • Parents Mary Schaudel, Susan Deyo and Paulet White have been delivering complete meals for individuals and staff at various houses

Opengate would also like to thank donors who contributed with monetary support so we can offer incentives to the DSPs who work around the clock maintaining a sense of normalcy for our individuals and their families. Your gifts also make it possible to purchase games, crafts, sensory products and recreational items to engage individuals at home due to temporary suspension of day programs. 

Not knowing when COVID-19 precautionary measures will ease, Opengate has a continuing need for donations to maintain the vital supplies necessary to safeguard our individuals and staff members.

Thank you in advance for your generous support.

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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Frontline Staff Volunteer to Quarantine

When some of our individuals tested positive for COVID-19, a team of dedicated staff members stepped up and were willing to quarantine with them to provide around the clock care. These exceptional staff worked tirelessly to provide quality support for the individuals in their care while relinquishing weeks away from home and family. 

One of the first staff members to volunteer for quarantine was Axel Diaz. When the first instance of COVID-19 was suspected he escorted the individual for testing and kept them calm with his compassionate and uplifting disposition. Aldo Carbone was instrumental in developing a group for staff members with the purpose of uniting efforts to best serve the individuals. He kept spirits up with his sense of humor despite the extreme difficulties COVID-19 presented. Aldo always offers assistance when needed and has volunteered to quarantine three times. Sharon Oloo has also volunteered to quarantine on three different occasions. Her tenacity and work ethic are remarkable. She made sure all individuals got to testing sites, communicated with their families, and provided a positive attitude and comfort. When out of work, she remained in touch daily to check the progress of individuals. 

Arlene Benjamin, Janine Quinten and Petra Nathan ensured individuals were given quality care and followed the philosophy of “putting people first” by strongly advocating for them. Offering emotional support to peers and individuals, they promoted teamwork within the house. Satish Edwards and Lavendar Webster closely monitored those in isolation and maintained active communication with the medical team. In addition, they accompanied individuals to the hospital when needed. Valerie Watson prepared delicious meals that were enjoyed by everyone. 

Giovanni Suckoo, Stephanie Caverlini and Shannon Clarke worked as a team and performed their duties with positive attitudes and encouragement for all individuals and staff. Ashley Elliot was also a valued part of the team who offered to stay around the clock to assist with the individuals.

Leonard Rhoden, Janelle Roach, Stephanie Barnes, and Sandra Lewis approached senior staff about remaining in quarantine for the well-being of individuals. Advocating for the health and comfort of the individuals, they communicated important observations to the house nurse. Always well prepared, they implemented their duties with positivity and smiles.

Opengate is grateful for the way staff members have taken on extra responsibilities during this crisis and exhibited their dedication to individuals, their peers, and the agency. The hard work of all staff involved allowed us to make it through this extraordinary time while still providing the highest quality of care and support to the individuals. 

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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Employees of the Month; First Quarter 2020

Opengate is pleased to announce the Employees of the Month for the first quarter of 2020. We apologize for the delay, COVID-19 has diverted our normal operations, but we hope to get back on track soon.

We are very proud of each employee selected by nomination and vote of their peers.

January, 2020 – Sophia Simpson

As one of Opengate’s exceptional Direct Support Professionals, Sophia Simpson has shown good leadership skills and is always receptive to suggestions. She is extremely flexible, dependable and professional.

It’s reported that her demeanor at work is always kind and courteous with a wonderful attitude towards her coworkers, individuals, families and supervisors. When coverage is needed in the Residential program, she has been available to help out.

Sophia’s supervisor received a truly complimentary letter from the family of a new individual placed in her care. His mother described how nervous they were for their son until he was placed with Sophia. They related the compassionate way she was able to help with her son’s transition.

Congratulations, Sophia Simpson, for being an outstanding, dedicated employee.

February, 2020 – Bob Kelly

A Maintenance Supervisor’s duties encompass a wide range of responsibilities needed to be completed on a daily basis. Bob Kelly genuinely demonstrates expertise in his position. Duties include routine building and grounds maintenance as well as computer and workstation installation and troubleshooting.

Bob is always available to assist in the residences, sometimes during his off hours. When faced with problems or issues, he assures the staff and individuals that he will come up with solutions.

Thank you, Bob Kelly, and congratulations on being selected by your peers.

March, 2020 – Kimberlee Ellis Hamilton

In her position as EHR (Electronic Health Records) Specialist, Kimberlee managed the switch to a new electronic health record system. She played a critical role in customizing the system to meet Opengate’s needs.

Kimberlee collaborated with staff from all levels of the organization as well as staff from PrecisionCare to ensure a smooth implementation.  Kimberlee is enthusiastic about her job and brings a lot of positive energy to what she does.  She availed herself to all programs to personally train the staff wherever needed.

Her efforts have supported the performance and achievement of others as a consequence of her positive attitude towards her responsibilities. Kimberlee has demonstrated her leadership skills and takes initiative towards the betterment of the agency. She is a role model for others.

Congratulations, Kimberlee Ellis Hamilton, and thank you for your hard work!

“Employee of the Month recipients receive a $100 bonus as our appreciation.  We will continue to recognize employees each month, so stay tuned as you may be the next recipient!”

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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Robert Drewes Reflects on Years at Opengate

Robert Drewes (1)

Over 30 years ago, Robert Drewes was invited by his friend Harold Auerbach to visit the facilities at Opengate where his son resided. He remembers the impression made on him that day, that the needs of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities were being met appropriately. So impressed, he later became a member of the Board of Directors and served in that capacity for over 10 years.

Robert recalls monthly meetings were held amongst Board members and families to discuss their concerns and address them as best as they could. Parents, then as now, expressed their apprehension about what happens to their adult child after they are no longer here or unable to care for them. Over the years, Opengate has created services and programs allowing all individuals to thrive and enjoy life in a place where they are respected. Parents are at ease knowing their adult children feel at home at Opengate.

During his tenure on the Board, Robert relates a story with a happy ending when Opengate began expanding. The retirement community located across the street from a property was very reluctant until they were invited to meet Opengate staff and residents. They soon became aware that their perceptions about individuals with disabilities was wrong, welcomed Opengate to the community, and began to participate in events held on the property, becoming part of the Opengate family.

While a commercial real estate developer, Robert heard that Opengate was in need of classrooms and was able to donate an unused construction trailer being used as offices. He says it was a short-term solution and was used until more suitable classrooms were acquired.

After his retirement in 1994, Robert moved to the Palm Coast of Florida and became involved with Special Olympics where he served on the local Board of Directors. He recalls how rewarding it is to run into individuals he coached as children and speak with them about the impact that was made on their lives through the program. 

When asked for advice for potential donors, Robert says to grab a friend and take them to meet the individuals served, make introductions to staff, and create a relationship.  Although he says it may not be a fit for everyone, but, being able to see firsthand how their contributions help is definitely a way to make an impact. He believes everyone is called to be in a position to help others.

Recalling his wonderful experience with Opengate, Robert credits the Board of Directors  promoting Brian Hulten to the Executive Director (now CEO) position as a proud moment. He is impressed by the progress and positive direction Opengate has seen over the years under Brian’s leadership. Always in touch, Robert enjoys receiving the newsletter to catch up on all that’s happening at Opengate!

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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