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Foothills Gateway Turns 50 – A Look Back From Our CEO, Erin Eulenfeld

January 07, 2022

In 2022, Foothills Gateway, Inc. (FGI) will be commemorating a landmark anniversary throughout the year! For the past 50 years, FGI has been a leader in providing innovative, compassionate, and supportive care to those we serve.   Today, we take a look back at how FGI has evolved and grown through the years.

FGI came into existence thanks to parents of children and adults with intellectual/developmental disabilities, along with help from other community leaders and organizations.   Many ordinary people saw a need and worked diligently to make sure there was a resource for children and adults with IDD in our community.  For example, the land on which FGI’s main building is located was donated to the newly created non-profit corporation by the Everitt family (local real estate developers) in 1971.   Two separate agencies, one in Loveland and one in Fort Collins, serving individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities merged to become FGI and moved operations to 301 W. Skyway Dr. which, at the time, was equidistant between the small towns of Fort Collins and Loveland.

In the early years, FGI provided educational services for children and vocational services for adults. Services were coordinated by a very small case management unit.  Not too long after the doors of our current building were opened in 1972, therapy services, which included physical, occupational, speech language and audiology services, were added to serve babies/toddlers, children, and adults at FGI.   In those days, Foothills Gateway was often referred to as the “Foothills Gateway Center” because all of the services and supports were provided at the main facility.

In the late 1970’s and during the 1980’s, multiple national and statewide initiatives and laws changed how Foothills Gateway provided services and supports.   From school inclusion to deinstitutionalization, people with disabilities were being given so many more opportunities and FGI adapted and changed along with the rest of the country in these areas.  The educational program for children was absorbed into the local public school districts so that children with disabilities had access to an integrated/inclusive education.   During this time, Foothills Gateway initiated a Community Employment program for adults served at the main facility.   This Community Employment program was innovative at the time and began long before there was state funding available to support this type of work.  In the mid-1980’s, FGI also expanded the numbers of individuals served and increased the numbers of case managers and direct services staff who were employed to coordinate and provide the expanded array of services.   Due to growth in population and the increasing demand for services, Foothills Gateway added on to the original building and increased the building’s footprint to more than 73,000 square feet.

Also, during the late 70’s and throughout most of the 80’s, adults with IDD either lived in their family home or in institution-like settings where many individuals with IDD lived in the same location.   Foothills Gateway worked with the State of Colorado and local residential agencies to develop smaller, community residential options for individuals being deinstitutionalized from the state’s Regional Centers in addition to moving individuals out of skilled nursing facilities into smaller, supportive housing options.    During this time period, Foothills Gateway also developed a housing program in conjunction with the state’s Division of Housing to provide Housing Choice Vouchers to individuals with disabilities for housing/rental assistance to increase independent living opportunities.

As a county-wide organization, Foothills Gateway has always valued our relationships with our community partners and, during the 1980’s, FGI and the Larimer Center for Mental Health (which became SummitStone Health Partners -SHP) developed a vocational and employment program in north Fort Collins to serve adults with behavioral health

support needs.  In 1990 FGI also entered into an agreement with Larimer County Department of Human Services (LCDHS) to allow for a residential treatment program for at-risk youth to be housed in the northwest wing of the main facility which lasted through the late 1990’s.    While those specific programs ended a number of years ago, our partnerships with SHP, LCDHS, and other community organizations have continued and included additional initiatives in the ensuing years.

As FGI entered the 1990’s, service delivery options for adults with IDD exploded to include many more community-based options!   Additionally, more Program Approved Service Agencies (PASAs) were either created in Larimer County or expanded from other areas of the state or nation to provide services Larimer County.    The expansion in PASAs allowed individuals and their family members to choose from an array of services and an array of providers to provide those services.   Currently, there are almost 170 PASAs who are approved to provide services to children and adults in Larimer County.   With the focus on providing services in communities, FGI restructured our Early Intervention (EI) Services for babies and toddlers from a facility-based program with staff therapists, to a community-based program where babies and toddlers received their services in their homes and community settings provided by contracted therapists.

Since those formative early years, FGI has experience exponential growth and development as more and more individuals and families needing the services and supports provided by FGI have moved to Northern Colorado.   Currently, FGI serves more than 2,350 individuals and their families, and we have more than 70 case management staff and service coordinators who assist individuals and families in navigating the service delivery system to receive the critical services they need.    FGI also continues to provide direct services and employs around 120 staff to provide a wide variety of direct services in Larimer County.   To support our case management and direct services divisions, FGI has an administrative division that includes a Finance Team that manages Medicaid and State billing functions, a Human Resources Team that is responsible for training staff and managing payroll and staff benefits, and an IT Team that makes sure all database systems are functioning in a secure and expedient manner, in addition to developing programs/systems to support the agency’s divisions.   Additionally, FGI has prioritized person-centered practices and continues to deliver on our mission “To advocate for and empower individuals with disabilities to lead lives of their choice” each and every day.

As we approach 2022 with excitement for the new possibilities this 50th year will bring, we also know, too, that FGI will continue to face and weather system changes and challenges.  Our history tells us that we stand ready to embrace these changes and will continue advocating for a life of opportunity, of choice, and of dignity for every individual, regardless of age or ability.

Please join Foothills Gateway in celebrating our remarkable 50th year!

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