Residential person-centered planning is what makes Opengate a top-tier choice for families of individuals with developmental disabilities. “Everything we do is based on each individual’s abilities and implementing measures of progress,” explains Chief Executive Officer Brian Hulten, LCSW. For one, this can mean arriving on time for a meal. For another, this can mean a regularly-scheduled volunteer job. “Every goal is unique to the individual,” says Hulten, “and we continually update personal outcome measures based on inclusion, independence and individual choice.”
This is evident when you walk into an Opengate residence. All the rooms in the 11 homes are inviting and personalized. One young man loves the New York Yankees. Not only does he go to games, his room and bedding match the love of his favorite baseball team. Animals are the theme of another room, including posters of big cats and giraffes. The individual will soon visit The Bronx Zoo based on her Person-Centered Plan or PCP.
The common areas, like the dining room and outside patio, reveal personal touches everywhere. Plants and flowers tended not far from the playing field where kickball games are a particular favorite. Opengate individuals generally sleep, eat, and bathe in their homes – unless they’re on a camping trip or other overnight outing – and each day’s schedule is quite full. The programs are all designed to achieve personal goals; benchmarks of success for each individual’s potential. For one, that may mean writing his or her letters and for another, to create decorations for the season. Peering into a classroom, all are engaged and focused on their tasks with specially-trained instructors hard at work. Recreation or physical education is attended daily in a well-appointed gymnasium. A staff member cheers as a young man scores a three-pointer in basketball.
Everyone attends an enrichment program at an on-site facility, Day Habilitation or WOW (see other pages). “We welcome individuals to our residential and day programs who present with a variety of abilities and support needs,” says Peter Welby, LCSW and Coordinator of Social Services. “In addition to a primary developmental disability, many of the individuals served also present with complex behavioral issues,” adds Welby. Unlike other agencies of its type, Opengate has a part-time, on-site Medical Director and psychiatrist and a dedicated medical department.
“There is nothing more rewarding than getting a smile and a hello from someone who had been silent or watching someone enjoy a boat ride for the first time in his life,” says Randi Rios-Castro, Chief Operating Officer.
During daily rounds, all reports are reviewed by administrators, physicians and social workers and any matters that need to be discussed or addressed are handled immediately. “Rounds help us coordinate care and ensure everyone is informed of current behaviors and needs,” says Rios-Castro. Residence managers have their own weekly meetings to discuss house activities with the individuals living in each home. Staff meetings are also held to provide ongoing training and keep employees informed of changes. Furthermore, there is a Resident Committee comprised of individuals living in the various houses.
Opengate individuals range in age from 21 to their sixties. The agency serves about 140 individuals and their families and employs more than 260 staff.