Employee of the Month, October 2019

We are happy to announce the October, 2019 Employee of the Month at Opengate, Liz Dama, Lead Developmental Disability Specialist (DDS) for the ICF Day Program.

Liz was nominated by her peers in recognition of her thoughtful and creative teaching methods applied by infusing fun into the learning process.

Recently, Liz coordinated a Fall-themed poetry reading, empowering the staff and the individuals to fully collaborate and participate.

A valued member of the Opengate family for the past 13 years, she holds a Master’s degree in Fine Arts from The School of Visual Arts. 

Liz has certainly proven to be a caring team player who not only believes in the agency’s mission and vision, she is an inspirational leader and role model for our individuals and the Day Program.

Liz, thank you for all that you do with the Individuals we serve.  This recognition is well-deserved.

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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Over 30 Years of Service: Betty Gilbreth


Since 1985 Betty Gilbreth has been responsible for providing nutritional meals for the individuals at Opengate. After earning a Masters Degree in Nutrition, Betty answered a Penny Saver ad for the available position and began working one day a week planning menus for the main house with a community dining room where everyone ate meals together.

Over the last 34 years she has seen several changes including the addition of houses in the community with their own kitchens. She currently works 3 days a week and plans meals for 12 homes, 7 in the community and 5 homes near Opengate’s Somers campus. 

Along with the ingredients for each meal, recipes and instructions are included.

Betty’s obligations don’t end with meal planning, she also follows the progress of individuals who live in the Grey, Auerbach, and Lehr ICF houses. She routinely reviews each persons’ nutritional needs, reporting if there are medical or swallowing issues, and if consistency of food needs to be modified. They are also evaluated by other medical personnel and any changes in diet recommended are made. She and staff members closely follow OPWDD’s choking prevention program for food and liquid.

The complexity of meeting the diverse needs of so many people seems daunting, and Betty is also involved in training staff members each time someone has a new medical diagnosis, food interactions, or a new diet is needed. The considerations are many, especially for the aging population. For example, some may require more protein for skin integrity and others may need adaptive equipment to assist them with eating. All of these factors are integrated on an individual basis.

Shopping for each kitchen, along with individual dietary necessities, is done on a weekly basis through ShopRite Supermarket’s online ordering and delivery service. Each order is delivered to the various homes by ShopRite and contain the basics along with specialty foods for those who need to be gluten, sugar, or lactose free.  Betty is mindful of offering a variety of healthy meals for each person including ethnic menus for those who enjoy a taste of home.

Betty regards Opengate individuals a “second family” and loves to do little favors for them such as stickers or personal notes. Several individuals were already living at Opengate when she arrived and she has been a part of their growth, successes, and achievements. She reports that her favorite memory is watching each of them enjoying their lives to the fullest.

In her personal time, Betty enjoys the outdoors, especially kayaking with her husband. She also belongs to a local book club and enjoys reading.

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, September 2019

We are happy to announce the September Employee of the Month at Opengate, Samantha Joseph, Developmental Disability Specialist (DDS) from the ICF Day Program. Samantha was nominated and recognized for her professionalism, positive attitude and leadership skills. She always strives to “put people first” and looks for ways to empower others in her classroom. As an example of this, Samantha recently created a grocery store to help the individuals work on their money management skills.  Samantha also willingly took on additional tasks and responsibilities during the absence of a DDS of Classroom 3.

Samantha has been a valued member of the Opengate family for the past five years and has proven to be a caring team player who believes in our vision and mission.

Samantha, thank you for all that you do with the Individuals we serve. This recognition is well-deserved.

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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Over 30 Years of Service: Brian Hulten, Opengate CEO

Brian Hulten Opengate CEO

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.” 

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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Somers Chief of Police Michael Driscoll Visits Opengate


When a behavioral incident arises, most agencies immediately place a 911 emergency call to handle the situation. Opengate rarely has the need to call 911, but when we do, the call is a surprise to the department. Recently, the Somers Chief of Police, Michael Driscoll, came by to get an update on an individual, he brought him a t-shirt and hat, and wished him well. He states that Opengate and staff members always manage behavioral incidents with kindness and professionalism.

When asked what prompted Chief Driscoll to make a return visit to see the individual, he responded that while being a police officer for approximately 50 years he wants to help those who can’t always help themselves. He stated he wanted the person to know that the police are their friends and come only to assist positively. Of course, his visit was greatly appreciated.

Throughout his tenure as a nursing home administrator, Chief Driscoll experienced first-hand the issues faced by agencies serving the aging, disabled, and behaviorally challenged, such as staff and funding shortages. He praises Opengate for establishing standards of excellence that ensure well trained staff knows how to handle each individual uniquely.

“The Somers community recognizes and endorses Opengate and the wonderful work they do.” Chief Driscoll says,  “Staff members are involved in community meetings and truly invested in creating the best atmosphere for the individuals. In turn, the community supports the work that they do.”

Opengate executives, board of directors, and staff members take pride in the fact that for 50 years we have provided a safe, pleasant environment for individuals in our care where they are treated respectfully and encouraged. After all, this is their home, and many long-term residents have achieved top levels of success based on their unique potentials. 

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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