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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Over 30 Years of Service: Monica Healey

One of the outstanding abilities of Monica Healey is building teams. Before she began working at Opengate 37 years ago, Monica taught Physical Education, Health, and Science as well as coached basketball and track. A friend recommended she consider an available position at Opengate as Recreational Director to establish a new recreation program.

Monica’s team building skills easily transition to her current position as Senior Corporate Compliance Specialist where she interacts daily with residents and staff as well as coordinates internal audits and special projects/events. The goal is to work together to provide quality services and choices while ensuring regulations are being met.

She also is responsible for interfacing with regulatory agencies when unannounced visits to the program areas are conducted.

Monica and other staff members often interact with the individuals’ families. She reports that family members are quite involved, supportive, and have easy access to staff if there are any concerns. “Quality of life” is a phrase often heard describing the experience of Opengate’s residents, something that Monica and her team play a part in providing for all individuals. 

While there are challenges, she states that Opengate is proud to have the ability to assist people with challenging behaviors who were not successful elsewhere offering support for them to achieve.

Some of the changes Monica describes during her time at Opengate include expansion of resources within the community, and throughout the county, which has resulted in opportunities for even more individuals to choose from to achieve their goals.  She feels the caliber of Opengate’s services has been a direct result of the expectations of CEO, Brian Hulten, from the homes, to the vehicles, to any new projects. Proposed projects or programs are scrutinized for each item that would be required to be successful. In other words, there are clear expectations and they must be met before the project moves forward.

Special Olympics is a project of which Monica is proud to be a part. For several years she has coordinated the program with other outside agencies as well as Opengate residents. She believes that not only does Special Olympics help to teach teamwork, but also aids residents with socialization and interaction skills. 

Listed among favorite memories of Monica’s 37 years with Opengate are picnics hosted by the Grasso family at their farm. A whole day was coordinated to include residents and staff enjoying activities such as hayrides, music, dancing, ice cream, and barbeque. Sporting events were planned along with feeding horses and swimming. It was a full day of fun and games!

Looking towards the future of Opengate, Monica praises the Board of Directors for continuing to move forward with innovative ideas that support Opengate’s mission. She sees all aspects of the agency remaining steadfast in maintaining the excellence Opengate is known for.

In her spare time, Monica enjoys the beaches in summer and ice skating in winter months.

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, August 2019

We are happy to announce the August Employee of the Month at Opengate, Marion Ngegba, Direct Support Professional (DSP) from Auerbach. Marion was nominated and recognized for her positive attitude, dependability and excellent work ethics. She consistently goes above and beyond in her daily responsibilities to ensure that there is always adequate staff coverage, and will work extra shifts if needed. Marion is well respected by her peers and has been called “a super worker”.

Marion’s dedication and love for the Individuals she supports was most evident when she insisted on working through her third trimester of pregnancy. She went into labor at work, and would not leave for the hospital until she ensured adequate coverage was secured for the remainder of her shift!

Marion is currently on Maternity Leave but has stayed in contact and is anxious to return to work. She exemplifies the agency’s Mission by the way she works hard to ensure that each person feels valued, loved and respected, and how she consistently goes the extra mile for her peers as well.

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

“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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Highlights of DSP Recognition Week 2019

“The backbone that keeps us strong!” was an obvious theme for the 2019 DSP Recognition week at Opengate, September 8-14.

Each day we honored our amazing Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) and the work they do daily to support our individuals. They are literally the backbone of our agency and the heart and soul of all we do.

Our DSPs were recognized during this special week with luncheons, gatherings and gifts to show our heartfelt appreciation. Several pieces of artwork were created to express in pictures and words what a difference each DSP makes in the life of those in our care. As you can see, the messages are inspiring.

In addition, a cake was created using one of the art pieces illustrating the theme, “The Backbone That Keeps Us Strong.” Opengate’s DSPs are truly our greatest asset and play an important part in the daily quality of life of our individuals.

Opengate DSPs are appreciated every day, but we are proud that there is a special week across the nation in their honor. Thank you, each and every one, for supporting those who need a compassionate hand.

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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