Nonprofits

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Independence Center trains deaf and hard of hearing students to be CNAs

Posted By on Thu, Jun 13, 2019 at 1:29 PM

The Independence Center's CNA training program is now housed next door to its main location. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • The Independence Center's CNA training program is now housed next door to its main location.

Back in January, the Independence Center, a nonprofit serving people with disabilities, received a request from a Denver resident who is deaf.

She'd signed up for a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) class in Denver that wasn't able to provide her with an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter.

"She was very determined and very motivated to become a CNA," recalls Rebecca Hull, CNA training program administrator at the Independence Center. "However, when she actually got into the classwork, she realized that she really needed an equal access to language — and it was just not possible to complete the class for her without an ASL interpreter. So she came to us, and asked us if we would be willing to set up such a class."

This summer, the Independence Center is doing just that, by providing an ASL interpreter at CNA classes that run June 3 to June 27. The training program includes seven deaf students and five hearing students, Hull says. Most of the students are from Colorado, though the Independence Center has received calls from out of state expressing interest.

One student who hails from Maryland hopes to take the skills he learns back to his home country of Sri Lanka, where he'll teach other deaf individuals how to become caretakers.

While it's been difficult for people who are deaf or hard of hearing to break into the medical field, Hull says, their disability can actually prove to be an advantage in certain situations.

"The deaf and hard of hearing population is so reliant on their power of observation, because that is how we get all of our information — by paying attention to the little details that a hearing person might overlook because all of their senses are being overwhelmed," Hull says.

"And being so in tune to details, I feel like it gives the deaf community a gain and advantage to realize 'Oh hey, you seem to be favoring your left side today, and last week you were favoring your right side. Is there something going on?' Just being able to tune into tiny details really can make all the difference in your resident's care plan."

The Independence Center offers CNA training programs once a month, with day and evening hours available. Students who graduate from the program work in hospitals, nursing homes, hospice, rehab programs and home health care, or may choose to go on to nursing school.

The nonprofit has trained more than 800 students since it purchased the program in December 2015, after encountering difficulty filling CNA positions in its own home health program.

"We were having so much trouble finding CNAs, attracting that workforce, that we decided: We're going to train them," Independence Center CEO Patricia Yeager told the Indy in October, after the CNA program's new building opened.

The job growth for CNAs is faster than average, with an 11 percent increase in job openings expected between 2016 and 2026, according to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics. That growth is driven in part by the fast-increasing population of people older than 65 (in Colorado, that age group is expected to double to 1.7 million by 2050).

The average annual wage for CNAs working in Colorado was $32,600, or $15.70 an hour, in May of last year.

Hull says that if the Denver and Colorado Springs communities express interest, they'll continue to offer training with an ASL interpreter.

"I'm just a big believer in 'Deaf Can,' and I think that a lot of the students in our class are going to go on to make great CNAs," Hull says. "I'm just really excited for them and excited to be a part of all of this."

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect appropriate language when discussing deaf individuals.
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Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Mental Health Colorado "scores" state lawmakers

Posted By on Wed, May 29, 2019 at 5:03 PM

TERO VESALAINEN / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Tero Vesalainen / Shutterstock.com
Each legislative session, political groups and advocacy organizations release "legislative scorecards," which assign lawmakers a "score" or "grade" based on the way they voted on issues.

Mental Health Colorado, a nonpartisan 501(c)3 organization that advocates for mental health, led the pack this year in releasing its scorecard May 21. El Paso County representatives and senators got scores that ranged from 38 (Republican Rep. Dave Williams) to 100 (Democratic Reps. Tony Exum and Marc Snyder, and Sen. Pete Lee).

Obviously, the legislators scored worst by certain organizations will probably end up scoring highest with others. For example, Williams got an A+, 93 percent rating last year from libertarian group Principles of Liberty. Lee earned an F from that group as a state representative.

Using data from Colorado Capitol Watch, Mental Health Colorado assigned scores based on state lawmakers' votes on eight bills that were part of its legislative agenda. They were:

House Bill 1009: "Substance Use Disorders Recovery" expands the state’s housing voucher program to include people with substance use disorders. It also requires that recovery facilities have a state license, and creates an “opioid crisis recovery fund” for settlement money the state receives from suing pill manufacturers.

The bill appropriates $1.1 million next year to multiple state agencies.

House Bill 1044: "Advance Behavioral Health Orders Treatment," according to Mental Health Colorado, "allows Coloradans to create a psychiatric advance directive to specify their preferred methods of treatment in the event of a mental health crisis that prevents them from making decisions for themselves."

House Bill 1193: “Behavioral Health Supports For High-risk Families” provides access to intensive substance use treatment to women up to one year after giving birth, and creates pilot child care programs for women in treatment.

This bill appropriates $500,000 next year to the Department of Human Services.

House Bill 1269: The “Behavioral Health Care Coverage Modernization Act” is intended to strengthen enforcement of parity laws for both commercial insurers and the state’s Medicaid system, with the goal of making sure Coloradans can get mental health and substance-use help just as easily as physical treatment.

The bill appropriates around $420,000 next year to multiple state agencies.

House Bill 1287: "Treatment for Opioids and Substance Use Disorders" directs the Department of Human Services to implement an online behavioral health capacity tracking system to show available spots at mental health facilities and substance use treatment programs across the state. It also creates a grant program to fund substance use treatment programs in underserved areas of the state.

This bill appropriates $5.7 million next year to multiple state agencies. Most of that money comes from the Marijuana Cash Tax Fund.

Senate Bill 10: "Professional Behavioral Health Services for Schools," according to Mental Health Colorado, "updates and improves the School Health Professionals Grant Program and includes an additional $3 million in time-limited funding to schools to increase the presence of school health professionals to support the behavioral health needs of students."

The bill appropriates $3 million next year from the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund to the Department of Education.

Senate Bill 222: "Individuals At Risk Of Institutionalization" creates incentives for providers who treat individuals with severe mental health or substance use disorders, and creates a "safety net system" to expand high-intensity behavioral health treatment programs.

This bill appropriates $370,000 next year to multiple state agencies.

Senate Bill 223: "Actions Related to Competency to Proceed" requires the Department of Human Services to develop an electronic tracking system for defendants whose mental state may not allow them to stand trial. It also requires DHS to convene a group of experts to create placement guidelines for referring defendants to restoration services, and work with a higher education institution to develop and provide training for mental competency evaluations.

This bill appropriates $6.5 million from the state's general fund this year, and $9.1 million next year to multiple departments.

Here's how our local legislators scored. (Committee votes were included as well as votes of the full House and Senate, which is why some lawmakers who voted for the same bills have different scores.)

• Rep. Terri Carver (R): 90

Carver voted for all of the bills except HB1009.

• Rep. Tony Exum (D): 100

Exum was absent for HB1009 but voted for all of other the bills.

• Rep. Tim Geitner (R): 67

Geitner voted "no" on HB1009, HB1269 and SB10.

• Rep. Lois Landgraf (R): 82

Landgraf voted "no" on HB1009 and SB10.

• Rep. Larry Liston (R): 66

Liston voted "no" on HB1269 and SB10. He was absent for HB1009.

• Rep. Shane Sandridge (R): 63

Sandridge voted "no" on HB1009, HB1269 and SB10.

• Rep. Marc Snyder (D): 100

Snyder voted for all of the bills.

• Rep. Dave Williams (R): 38

Williams voted "no" on HB1009, HB1269, HB1287, SB10 and SB223.

• Sen. Bob Gardner (R): 82

Gardner voted "no" on HB1009 and SB10.

• Sen. Owen Hill (R): 44

Hill voted "no" on HB1009, HB1269 and SB10.

• Sen. Dennis Hisey (R): 80

Hisey voted "no" on HB1009.

• Sen. Pete Lee (D): 100

Lee voted for all of the bills.

• Rep. Paul Lundeen (R): 88

Lundeen voted "no" on HB1009.
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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Point-in-Time count shows homeless population leveling out in Colorado Springs

Posted By on Tue, May 21, 2019 at 3:47 PM

Police officers talk to residents in the Quarry homeless camp southeast of downtown. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Police officers talk to residents in the Quarry homeless camp southeast of downtown.

According to numbers recently released from January's Point-in-Time homeless count, the total number of people experiencing homelessness in Colorado Springs appears to have stabilized after three years of consecutive large increases.

Volunteers conducting the count recorded a total of 1,562 people staying outside, in emergency shelters and living in transitional housing — 11 more than last year, representing an increase of less than 1 percent.

Since 2015, when volunteers counted 1,073 people, the city's homeless population has increased by 45.6 percent.

The federally-mandated estimate, considered an undercount, is conducted every year on a single night in January. This year, 180 volunteers canvassed the city conducting surveys and distributing socks, hats, gloves and hand-warmers.

This year's numbers showed a 13 percent decrease in the number of unsheltered people (those staying in tents, in cars or on the streets). Meanwhile, 7.7 percent more people were counted in emergency shelters and transitional housing. The numbers reflect positively on the city's push to add more low-barrier shelter beds this year, where clients don't have to meet sobriety requirements.

Springs Rescue Mission — already a low-barrier shelter — began adding beds in November, for a total of 150 new beds by the end of the season. Meanwhile, the Salvation Army Shelter & Services at RJ Montgomery began removing sobriety requirements for its 220 beds, and plans to add 40 beds for homeless families by the time renovations are complete.

Volunteers counted 131 unaccompanied youths this year, and 137 families (households with at least one adult and one child). Those represent 41 percent and 7 percent increases from the previous year, respectively, though families and children who may be staying temporarily with friends or family aren't counted in the Point-in-Time.

Data collected separately by El Paso County school districts for the 2017-2018 school year showed 449 families and 1,117 students without permanent housing. That data also includes those staying with friends or family, staying in trailer parks and living in motels.

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Friday, May 3, 2019

May is Mental Health Month

Posted By on Fri, May 3, 2019 at 1:28 PM

NAMI board member Tyra Sandoval speaks at the nonprofit's annual fundraising breakfast. - MIKE PACH
  • Mike Pach
  • NAMI board member Tyra Sandoval speaks at the nonprofit's annual fundraising breakfast.
As Mental Health Month begins, some advocates are celebrating what they regard as recent successes — such as the April 29 passage of House Bill 1269, which strengthens enforcement of parity laws that require insurers to prioritize mental health care to the same extent they do physical health.


And Senate Bill 222, which passed April 30, creates incentives for providers who treat individuals with severe mental health or substance use disorders, as well as strengthening a "safety net system" to expand high-intensity behavioral health treatment programs.

But daunting challenges remain, as highlighted by speakers at the May 2 fundraising breakfast for National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Colorado Springs.

"I'm going to share some numbers with you this morning, and you need to buckle up: 445,000 Coloradans have a mental illness that is going untreated," said Tyra Sandoval, a NAMI board member and local realtor. "181,000 of those people report they sought treatment but were unable to get it. 51,000 alone live here in El Paso County. 152 people completed suicide in El Paso County in 2018, and seven of those were teens. 112 were men."

El Paso County Coroner Dr. Leon Kelly, the vice president of NAMI's board, spoke about his own struggle coping with a family member's mental illness.

"I knew what it was like to feel as if your only two options are to watch the person you care for drown or to hold on knowing inevitably you would drown with them," Kelly said. "No one should feel that lost. Every family deserves a place to go for help, and with NAMI, they do."

Kelly highlighted recent local projects informed and supported by NAMI: teen suicide prevention efforts, the formation of the El Paso County Sheriff's Office crisis intervention team, and the launch of the Man Therapy campaign, which aims to destigmatize mental illness for men.

NAMI provides a variety of free mental health programs and services for the community, including support groups and classes for family members of people with mental health issues.

Your reminder this month: Don't forget you can call the free, confidential Colorado Crisis Services phone line at any time if you find yourself in crisis, or just need a friendly ear. Their number: 1-844-493-TALK (8255). You can also text TALK to 38255 to speak with a trained mental health professional, or chat online.

AspenPointe also operates walk-in crisis center locations at:

115 S. Parkside Dr.
Colorado Springs
(Open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week)

...and...

6071 E. Woodmen Road, Suite 135
St. Francis Medical Center, North Care Building
(Open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday - Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday)

The state Department of Human Services, in partnership with Mental Health Colorado, recently launched the Mental Wellness and Addiction Recovery Guide website for people considering mental health or substance use treatment. You can check it out at https://cowellnessrecovery.org/.
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Wednesday, May 1, 2019

719Heroes raise money for K9 officers

Posted By on Wed, May 1, 2019 at 2:50 PM

COURTESY CSPD
  • Courtesy CSPD
A month or so ago, we noticed a group of people with cameras outside our office next to a police car. Naturally, we asked them what was going on.

Turns out they were filming a promo video for an event to raise money for K9 officers. The police officer and pup in the video both work for the Colorado Springs Police Department. You can watch the full video below (make sure you have tissues handy):


The second annual Homes for Heroes Community Cares K9 Event, organized by 719Heroes, is scheduled for May 4 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Weidner Field.

"We try and help fund 27 — this year it happens to be 27 of the local canine officers — and three of the equine officers with the sheriff's department, which are the horses," explains local realtor Preston Smith, an event organizer. "They do have a budget from the city... but unexpected things pop up, and most of the time the officers who are the handlers who take the K-9 officers home with them ... incur those expenses sometimes on their own."

Pups working with the Colorado Springs Police Department, El Paso County Sheriff's Office, Fountain Police Department, Woodland Park Police Department and Colorado Parks and Wildlife will receive donations, Smith says.

The event is free to the public, and will feature vendors, food trucks, Broncos cheerleaders, dog demonstrations, and celebrity appearances from actor Judd Lormand of CBS show SEAL Team and motivational speaker Randy Sutton.

There's also a 5K race with a $25 registration fee (register here), a silent auction and the chance to win $10,000 in a soccer contest. For a donation, Smith adds, you can put on a "bite suit" as part of a dog demonstration.

Smith and his colleagues with the 719Heroes network, an affiliate of Homes for Heroes, give 25 percent of their commissions back to law enforcement officers who buy homes with them.
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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

NRA files suit against PR firm after 38-year relationship

Posted By on Wed, Apr 24, 2019 at 11:15 AM

Ackerman McQueen's office is located in this building on South Cascade Avenue. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Ackerman McQueen's office is located in this building on South Cascade Avenue.
The National Rifle Association filed suit on April 12 against its long-standing marketing/public relations firm, Ackerman McQueen.

Based in Oklahoma City, Ackerman McQueen also has offices in Washington, D.C., Dallas and at 517 South Cascade Ave. in Colorado Springs. The firm's website describes the local office like this: "Situated at the base of the Rocky Mountains, this office is a creative center for all of our publishing efforts."

A lengthy analysis of the NRA's relationship with Ackerman McQueen was published in The New Yorker on April 17.

From the story:
The suit alleges that Ackerman has denied the N.R.A. access to basic business records, including the terms of Oliver North’s contract, and blames the firm for throwing it into an existential crisis. Ackerman’s general lack of transparency, the complaint says, “threatens to imminently and irreparably harm” the N.R.A.’s status as a nonprofit organization. (In response, the marketing firm issued a statement saying it “has served the NRA and its members with great pride and dedication for the last 38 years. The NRA’s action is frivolous, inaccurate and intended to cause harm to the reputation of our company and the future of that 38-year relationship.”)
The magazine reports delves into the long-standing association of the NRA and Ackerman, noting they're so close "that it is difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins."

The NRA has poured lavish amounts of money into Ackerman. From 2014 to 2016, it paid the firm $52 million, according to IRS filings available on Guidestar. The New Yorker also reported it paid another $40 million to Ackerman in 2017.

A dash of local flavor from the article:
In 2014, [Ackerman CEO] Angus McQueen’s son, Revan, got married, in Colorado Springs, in an opulent affair that brought together the most prominent beneficiaries of Ackerman’s work with the N.R.A. Revan had graduated from New York University only five years earlier, but he was being trained to work as the co-C.E.O. of Ackerman McQueen. During the wedding weekend, Revan and his guests, who included Colion Noir and several college classmates, went to a shooting range to practice tactical movements and fire semi-automatic rifles. The ceremony was held at a resort called the Broadmoor, a cluster of Italian Renaissance buildings set on five thousand acres at the foot of Cheyenne Mountain.... The groomsmen, in black tie, toasted one another with twenty-three-year-old Pappy Van Winkle bourbon, which can sell for three thousand dollars a bottle. During the ceremony, the Colorado Springs Philharmonic played on the terrace.
Given the apparent falling out between the NRA and Ackerman, we wondered what that means for its Colorado Springs operation. We telephoned the firm and were told to submit questions in writing, which we did.

We'll update when we hear something.

As a footnote, Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit that works toward "commonsense gun policies," issued a news release on April 23, saying, "In light of the revelations from the New Yorker investigative piece, Everytown has filed a complaint about the NRA's tax-exempt status with the IRS, and is calling for federal and state investigations into the NRA's operation as a tax-exempt organization."
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Friday, April 12, 2019

Salvation Army gets new disaster response vehicle from FedEx

Posted By on Fri, Apr 12, 2019 at 11:05 AM

COURTESY SALVATION ARMY
  • Courtesy Salvation Army
When someone loses their home to fire or flooding, they need help.

Now, the Salvation Army has a new vehicle to help in times of disaster, thanks to a $114,000 disaster response vehicle customized and donated by FedEx, the agency announced in a news release.

The new vehicle is more than just a sleeker version of The Salvation Army’s current disaster response fleet, the Salvation Army said. It also will save the agency money because it's more economical to operate and maintain.

From the release:
The vehicle’s smaller size and 4-Wheel drive capabilities allow us to respond in areas we cannot reach with the large mobile feeding units or during severe winter weather.

“With the addition of the new disaster response unit, we will be better prepared to serve than ever before.” says Major Mike Dickinson, The Salvation Army Intermountain Divisional Commander.

FedEx has a long history of supporting disaster relief and recovery efforts including assisting with The Salvation Army’s relief efforts following last year’s wildfires and March’s bomb cyclone.

“FedEx is proud to support The Salvation Army’s emergency response programs through our FedEx Cares Delivering for Good initiative.” said Jenny Robertson, vice president Corporate Communications, FedEx.
 
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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Urban Peak will bring mental health care to homeless youth on the streets

Posted By on Wed, Apr 10, 2019 at 4:06 PM

urban_peak.jpg
Barriers to mental health care exist for everyone, but people experiencing homelessness — and especially homeless youth — have the odds stacked against them.

"While close to half of youth in homelessness struggle with mental illness and substance abuse, the support they need is too far away, takes too long to schedule, and is often with clinicians who lack specific expertise working with youth in homelessness,” Urban Peak Colorado Springs Executive Director Shawna Kemppainen was quoted in a recent statement from the nonprofit, which serves homeless youth.

A $5 million federal grant, announced April 9, could help address those challenges in Colorado by bringing mental health care directly to teens and young adults on the streets.

Over the next five years, the funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration will pay for mental health clinicians to provide street outreach for youth ages 16 to 25 in Denver and Colorado Springs. The providers will contract with Urban Peak in both cities, which will, in turn, contract with the state's Office of Behavioral Health on the project.

The project is driven by three major goals, according to a statement from that state office: 1) identify homeless youth suffering from serious mental disorders and/or intellectual developmental disabilities; 2) promote collaboration across state agencies to increase youth access to mental health treatment; and 3) connect homeless youth to "public benefits, employment and social support and recovery services."


In Colorado Springs, the funding will allow Urban Peak to embed two clinicians in street outreach and add a case manager to provide wraparound services.

"While some of the help will look like traditional counseling in an office-type setting, much will happen in varied chunks of time across varied environments," Urban Peak's statement explains.

Urban Peak Colorado Springs already has an outreach team that hands out resources and connects youth with housing services (including the nonprofit's own transitional housing program and 20-bed shelter), but the team currently doesn't provide mental health care.

The grant will allow Urban Peak to begin contracting with clinicians this summer, Kemppainen says.

“The whole premise [of having providers do outreach] is to meet youth where they are, when they need it," she says. "...Mental and behavioral health support is crucial to creating the housing stability, employability and self-reliance youth need to exit homelessness.”
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Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Historic downtown church hosts benefit concert to pay for repairs

Posted By on Wed, Mar 27, 2019 at 3:31 PM

Chadbourn Historic Mission Church survived the razing of a neighborhood. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Chadbourn Historic Mission Church survived the razing of a neighborhood.

Chadbourn Historic Mission Church, which survived the razing of a neighborhood to make way for America the Beautiful Park, has suffered vandalism and flood damage in recent years. It’s hosting a benefit concert and bake sale on March 31 from 2 to 6 p.m. to raise money for unbreakable Lexan window covers to protect its stained glass, as well as for flooding-related repairs.

The total cost of America the Beautiful Park — previously "Confluence Park" — amounted to more than $11 million by the time it was completed in 2005, an amount approved by Colorado Springs voters. That included more than $3 million spent on acquiring around 30 properties before construction began.

Rev. Christie Emery, a minister at the church, says she's heard one of the former ministers "literally put himself between a bulldozer and the church" to save it from demolition.

While the details of that incident are hard to verify, the national record shines some light on the building's history.

The benefit concert will raise money for window covers to protect its stained glass. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • The benefit concert will raise money for window covers to protect its stained glass.
The property was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2009, as the last remaining link to the Conejos barrio, a low-income, predominantly Latino neighborhood that was otherwise completely demolished to make way for the park. The church itself was built in 1910 or 1911, according to the Register, and originally used as a grocery store until it was rented and eventually purchased by missionary Ruth Chadbourn, along with two other trustees, in 1934 for $425.

The non-denominational church became an anchor for the neighborhood and offered services in both Spanish and English. It hosted Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts meetings, community events, and adult education classes.

In 1939, a few years after Chadbourn's death, its trustees remodeled the building to resemble a Spanish mission church. The stained glass windows were donated by the First United Methodist Church, just one of many collaborations between the church and other congregations.

Rezoning by the city resulted in many of the neighborhood's homes being replaced by commercial buildings, and by the 1990s, when the city began acquiring properties for the park, only the church and a few houses were left in the Conejos barrio.

"In October 1998, the City of Colorado Springs offered the Mission Trustees $125,000 for their property and up to $10,000 for the cost of relocating their operations," according to the building's entry in the National Register of Historic Places. "The city intended to demolish the Mission and incorporate the property in the development of the park. The Trustees rejected the City’s offer but eventually agreed to allow the city to move the Mission to a new location."

In 1999, however, the city made changes to the original park plans that allowed the church to stay.

"All of the roads and the property to the north of the Mission were torn up during construction of the park, making it difficult to drive to the building," the entry reads. "The congregation persevered and Sunday services were held throughout the project."

But the challenges continue: Emery says the terrain changes made for the park have led to flooding in the basement, and the stained glass windows — "although they're not Tiffany glass, they are Tiffany-era" — have been repeatedly vandalized.

The necessary repairs and window covers are too expensive for the small, aging congregation to shoulder alone, Emery says.

So she and her husband, local musician Bill Emery, came up with the idea for a benefit concert. It's scheduled for March 31 from 2 to 6 p.m.

Along with a bake sale and silent auction, the event will feature performances by Bare Bones Trombone Choir, Bill Emery and The Stardust Jazz Orchestra and violinist Cynthia Robinson.

A suggested donation is $10, and you can RSVP on Facebook here.

"It's a little piece of history over there, that's just, when it's gone, there will be nothing left of that actual neighborhood anymore," Emery says. "...That little area has a lot of heart and I would hate for it to just be forgotten."
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Thursday, February 28, 2019

Kyle Hybl to succeed his father as El Pomar Foundation CEO

Posted By on Thu, Feb 28, 2019 at 11:15 AM

Kyle Hybl: Following in  his father's footsteps. - PHOTOS COURTESY EL POMAR FOUNDATION
  • Photos Courtesy El Pomar Foundation
  • Kyle Hybl: Following in his father's footsteps.
Kyle Hybl will succeed his father, Bill Hybl, as president and CEO of El Pomar Foundation, the benevolent organization announced Feb. 28.

The younger Hybl joined the agency in 2000 as general counsel.

The elder Hybl served as president and CEO of El Pomar for 45 years and will remain as chairman of the board, managing the governance and affairs of the board of trustees in partnership with R. Thayer Tutt, Jr., the foundation's vice chairman and chief investment officer, El Pomar said in a release.
The release quoted William Ward, vice chairman, saying:
Since joining the Foundation in 2000, Kyle has established himself as a trusted and talented leader and has demonstrated the strong management skills necessary to lead the organization smoothly into the future. Kyle engages others with skill and grace, makes sound decisions, and demonstrates exceptional integrity. The Trustees place the greatest importance on honoring the intent of our founders, and we are confident that Kyle along with Matt Carpenter, who will succeed Kyle as Chief Operating Officer, will lead the Foundation with a shared vision and commitment to the Penrose legacy. We are excited about the next generation of leaders at El Pomar.
Bill Hybl: Ending 45 years as CEO.
  • Bill Hybl: Ending 45 years as CEO.
Regarding Bill Hybl, Ward said:
The Board of Trustees and El Pomar staff wish to extend our deepest gratitude to Bill Hybl, who has led El Pomar with poise and passion since joining the Foundation 45 years ago. Bill’s commitment to the communities of Colorado and the Penrose legacy established El Pomar as a pillar of the Colorado philanthropic community. With his leadership, the Foundation has distributed over $500 million in grants and built a number of invaluable and innovative programs, networks, and resources that benefit all of Colorado. He has personally and professionally made innovative and enduring contributions by championing many impactful projects. We are thankful for his continuation as Chairman of the Board, and know his legacy as CEO has made a permanent impact on the state of Colorado.

Other promotions and hirings announced by El Pomar:

Matt Carpenter will assume the role of Chief Operating Officer. Matt joined the foundation in 1999 as a participant in the Fellowship program and has since risen to the role of Executive Vice President, overseeing the grants office operations.

Devanie Helman, Vice President, is the director of the Fellowship and is the senior staff member for the North Region and the Sally Beck Fund. She joined the Foundation in 2012 as a participant in the Fellowship program.

Dave Miller, Associate Vice President, oversees the Foundation’s IT operations. He originally joined the Foundation in 2015 as an on-site contract employee, and joined El Pomar full-time in 2016.

Kaitlin Johnson, Associate Vice President, is the deputy director of the Regional Partnerships program and serves as the senior staff member for the High Country and Central Peaks Regions. Kaitlin joined El Pomar in 2015 as a participant in the Fellowship program.

Julia Lawton, Director of Communications, oversees the Foundation’s communications, and represents El Pomar on the Empty Stocking Fund staff. Julia joined El Pomar in 2015 as a participant in the Fellowship program.

Diane Riggenbach, Investment Specialist, came to El Pomar in January 2019 after 13 years with UBS Financial Services.

Eleanor Martinez, Executive Assistant, oversees the administrative duties for the offices of Kyle Hybl and Matt Carpenter. Eleanor joined the Foundation in January 2019. Eleanor previously served in roles at the Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC and Colorado Thirty Group.

Samantha Knoll, Assistant Curator of the Penrose Heritage Museum, joined the foundation in December 2018 after completing a degree in anthropology and museum studies at University of Colorado Colorado Springs.

Established by Spencer and Julie Penrose in 1937, El Pomar was started with an initial endowment of $21 million. Today, it's grown to nearly $600 million. El Pomar's mission is to enhance, encourage and promote the current and future well-being of Coloradans.
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Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Homeless deaths: the impact on friends, siblings, parents

Posted By on Wed, Feb 20, 2019 at 4:53 PM

The bus stop where Calvin Reeves was found dead on Jan. 22. - BRYAN OLLER
  • Bryan Oller
  • The bus stop where Calvin Reeves was found dead on Jan. 22.
As the Independent was going to press this week, we heard from Shawna Kemppainen, executive director of Urban Peak, which serves homeless youth.

She had something to add after our interview about the death of Calvin Reeves at a bus stop at Austin Bluffs Parkway and Academy Boulevard.

Her thoughts:
As with each of us, the death of a person who has been homeless affects many others. This person had friends, siblings, parents or children. A young person we work with at Urban Peak discovered their mother dead one morning last year. The mom was living in her car parked not far from our youth shelter, and the young person would go to the car each morning to say hello. As you might imagine, it has taken a deep toll on the youth who is processing all aspects of grief, including guilt. In another instance, a young person surviving outside was hit and killed by a drunk driver. Too old for Urban Peak’s shelter but too afraid to stay at the adult shelters, this youth traveled sidewalks and streets most of the day and night. The day before they died, our street outreach team had helped the youth arrange to get their hearing aids fixed.

Second: People surviving outside face the same illnesses as people who have a traditional roof overhead, but the rates of sickness are much higher and the threat of death greater. Imagine facing the flu or even heart disease when you cannot get enough rest, stay warm and clean, or maintain medications. The conditions of homelessness exacerbate all health challenges. Even when someone exits homelessness, the toll of street life can quickly catch up.
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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Independence Center celebrates accessible health care

Posted By on Wed, Feb 13, 2019 at 12:53 PM

Betty Jo Sjoberg, center, nominated Matthews-Vu Medical Group to receive an accessible table and lift from the Independence Center. RMA Manager Brandy James, left, and Director of Operations Paul Novotny represented Matthews-Vu at a luncheon celebrating the equipment giveaways. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Betty Jo Sjoberg, center, nominated Matthews-Vu Medical Group to receive an accessible table and lift from the Independence Center. RMA Manager Brandy James, left, and Director of Operations Paul Novotny represented Matthews-Vu at a luncheon celebrating the equipment giveaways.

It's a widespread problem: The majority of medical providers lack the proper equipment and training to give patients who use wheelchairs a complete check-up.

The Independence Center sought to change that this fall by using $75,000 from its board-run IC fund to buy accessible medical equipment for providers serving Medicaid and Medicare recipients in Southern Colorado.

Available items included the UpScale accessible exam table, which has an adjustable height and built-in scale; Hoyer-type lifts, devices used to transfer patients from wheelchair to table; and the portable loop system, a listening device that feeds audio directly into hearing aids.

Back in June, we reported that the Independence Center planned to donate accessible tables and lifts to at least seven medical clinics in El Paso County, and use the remaining money for loop systems.

The nonprofit ended up donating tables and lifts to nine medical practices, and gave portable hearing loop systems to three, CEO Patricia Yeager announced at a luncheon Feb. 8 celebrating the donations.

The providers who received the equipment were selected from a list of 23 nominees, Yeager says. Patients submitted the nominations to the Independence Center.
"To come into a setting that is already accessible says that somebody thought ahead of time and made arrangements for everyone to be cared for," says Sharon King, who nominated her doctor at Sunrise Health Care to receive a table and lift. "[My doctor] has always been wonderful to me and unflinchingly creative in making ways to care for me, but I'm really grateful to have been able to be a part of giving her something back as kind of a thank-you for the level of care and concern that she provides."

Paul Novotny, director of operations for Matthews-Vu Medical Group, said that in addition to helping patients who used wheelchairs — such as Betty Jo Sjoberg, who nominated the office — the accessible table's built-in scale had also come in handy for patients who used walkers.

"Before we had the table, they would bring the walker and they would stand on our scales," Novotny says. "And it wasn't always the safest, most accurate measurement for their weight."

The Independence Center's website now has a map of providers in the region with accessible exam tables and hearing loops.

Yeager says the nonprofit plans to focus on dental offices this year.

"We'd really like to see if we can create a few accessible dental offices," she says. "I have no idea what that looks like. So that'll be some research we'll be doing, and putting a call out for nominations."
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Friday, February 8, 2019

Backpack Challenge to raise awareness around homelessness

Posted By on Fri, Feb 8, 2019 at 9:55 AM

COURTESY OF DONNA WINTZ
  • Courtesy of Donna Wintz
In honor of International Random Acts of Kindness Week, local nonprofits are challenging Colorado Springs residents to walk a mile (or any distance, really) in their homeless neighbor's shoes.

But walking around homeless usually means hauling around more than the clothes on your back and shoes on your feet. If you don't have a car, or a safe place for your stuff, you're probably carrying all of your personal belongings with you, too.

That's the premise of the Backpack Challenge, which runs from Feb. 9 to Feb. 15. Participants are encouraged to wear a backpack for a day while they walk around Colorado Springs, then share their experience on social media, with the goal of promoting empathy and raising awareness of the challenges faced by homeless people in our community.


According to the event announcement, the idea was born when Donna Wintz, a volunteer for Westside Cares, was walking in Old Colorado City wearing a backpack. She noticed that some residents looked suspicious or disdainful as she passed.

“I think criminal activity in the city has homeowners on edge,” the announcement quotes Wintz as saying. “I understand the caution, but I don’t like my first interaction with a stranger to be negative, as if I am assumed a criminal simply because I’m wearing a backpack.”

Wintz spoke with Kristy Milligan, the CEO of nonprofit Westside Cares, about launching a campaign around the idea to coincide with International Random Acts of Kindness Week.

“There is tremendous need for caring services and housing in our community,” Milligan says in the announcement. “But the single greatest need is for a collective, community-wide commitment to seeing our neighbors in need as they actually are: our brothers and sisters.”

Other nonprofits promoting the challenge include Ecumenical Social Ministries, Urban Peak Colorado Springs, Homeward Pikes Peak, Catholic Charities of Central Colorado and Community Health Partnership.

Here's some guidelines for Backpack Challenge participants:

BACKPACK CHALLENGE
  • Backpack Challenge
Wintz, a graphic designer, created a "Try a Little Kindness" emblem in honor of the event, available on T-shirts, posters, mugs and more on RedBubble. She'll donate the proceeds to Westside Cares.

Businesses interested in obtaining the emblem for a fundraiser can contact Wintz at 970/682-0075 or donna@arttomarketdesign.com.
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Friday, January 11, 2019

Independence Center to host watch party for Disability Integration Act

Posted By on Fri, Jan 11, 2019 at 12:33 PM

SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Shutterstock.com
People with disabilities who need longterm services are often forced to leave their homes for assisted living facilities because Medicaid won't pay for at-home care. Disability rights activists say that legislators in Congress can change that by passing the Disability Integration Act, set to be introduced in both the House and Senate on Jan. 15.

Disability rights supporters will be watching across the country — including at the Independence Center, a local nonprofit for people with disabilities.

The bill, introduced last spring in the Senate by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, and in the House by Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisconsin, would require states, local governments and insurance providers to provide community-based services for people with disabilities as an alternative to institutionalization.

States and local governments would be required to work with housing authorities to ensure sufficient quantities of affordable, accessible, integrated housing where people can receive services while remaining in the community.

The list of Senate cosponsors includes Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner. Gardner, the latest cosponsor to sign on, was the only Republican to do so as of Jan. 8.

It's possible that pressure from disability rights organization ADAPT, the legislation's main backer, led to his decision. ADAPT supporters were arrested multiple times in Gardner's offices where they were pressuring him to cosponsor the legislation, according to a statement from the organization. And in November, the statement says, ADAPT had an airplane bearing the message “GARDNER SUPPORT S910 DIA FREE OUR PEOPLE!” fly around Gardner's Washington, D.C., office building. That evening, ADAPT projected the same message "shining like a bat-signal" on the front of the building. Gardner added his name a month later.

Last legislative session, all of Colorado's House representatives also signed on as cosponsors.

Neither the House nor Senate bill made it out of committee last session, but advocates are hopeful that this year, things will be different.

“The Disability Integration Act (DIA) is the next step in building a fulfilling and sustainable world for persons with disabilities," Becca Michael, advocacy manager at the Independence Center, said in an emailed statement. "...The Independence Center is excited about this legislation, as our mission is to work with people with disabilities, their families, and the community, to create independence so all may thrive."

The Independence Center, located at 729 S. Tejon St. will host a watch party Jan. 15 from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. to livestream the bill's introduction and discussion. The event is open to the public, and snacks will be provided.

"The Independence Center is hosting this watch party, not only because it is important for our consumers and employees, but because it is gaining momentum, and we want to make sure it makes it over the finish line," Michael said. "For now, we want to raise awareness of the legislation, and celebrate the effort!”

disability_integration_act_watch_party.jpg
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Friday, January 4, 2019

Man who died days after finally getting off the streets is remembered

Posted By on Fri, Jan 4, 2019 at 5:18 PM

Paul Gabrielson in his new apartment. - COURTESY OF RICHARD JOHNSON
  • Courtesy of Richard Johnson
  • Paul Gabrielson in his new apartment.

The day Paul Gabrielson moved into his own apartment, the first address to his name in years, he was glowing.

Within a few hours, the 50-year-old had put on music and decorated the space with a few spare belongings, recalls Richard Johnson, a relative who helped Gabrielson move.

"He was like a little kid," Johnson says. "He was so excited about this brand new home, his new start on life."

But two days after Gabrielson — who had been chronically homeless since at least 2013, couchsurfing and frequenting the Springs Rescue Mission when he wasn't camping outside — gained the keys to his own apartment, tragedy struck.

While the coroner's report isn't finalized, word is that an undiagnosed condition, possibly related to Gabrielson's alcoholism, took his life.

Gabrielson was a frequent patron at Westside Cares, a nonprofit that provides food and services for people experiencing homelessness. At a Dec. 20 memorial service for Gabrielson, the nonprofit's building was packed with those who knew and loved him: family members, friends who had lived with him on the streets, volunteers who'd felt appreciated by his kindness, and others who knew him in passing but felt the impact of his loving personality.

"We’ve had a lot of memorial services, but none as big as this," one volunteer remarked to Gabrielson's sister in passing.

It's not surprising, given the impression Gabrielson clearly left on the homeless outreach community. He received services, but gave what he could himself, too — like the Broncos cap he gave to Pastor Eric Sandras, who led the memorial service, and a beanie sported by Kristy Milligan, CEO of Westside Cares, as she delivered opening remarks. Gabrielson often helped serve meals at Sandras' The Sanctuary Church, Sandras says. And those he met on the streets recalled his habit of lending a helping hand when he could.

"Paul had a really big heart and he inspired a lot of people, whether to become Christian or be thankful for what you have," says Janeice Queen, Gabrielson's sister. "... He didn’t have a lot, but he did have a big heart, and we’re going to miss him."


At Westside Cares, Gabrielson took the VI-SPDAT housing assessment, which looks at a variety of factors to determine level of vulnerability and potential for placement in permanent supportive housing. After a long process involving heaps of paperwork and doctor's appointments, he eventually was selected for an opening in one of Homeward Pikes Peak's permanent supportive housing units — like "striking gold in this town," says Deb Mitguard, Westside Cares' director of volunteer engagement.

"We saw him really working hard this last year to create a different kind of life for himself," Mitguard says, "and of course it took him making up his mind about that, but it also took several people walking beside him and helping him just kind of jump through all of the hoops that had to be jumped through to get from here to there."

Gabrielson was enrolled at Pikes Peak Community College from 2010 to 2014, according to a PPCC spokesperson, but never got a degree. Johnson says he had planned to complete the remaining courses needed for an associate's degree and transfer the credits to Colorado State University at Pueblo in the summer or fall.

COURTESY OF WESTSIDE CARES
  • Courtesy of Westside Cares
He loved dancing and martial arts, Queen says, and had a job interview scheduled the last time she spoke with him.

"I don’t understand why it takes some people and doesn’t take others, the alcohol," she says. 


Through everything — decades of alcoholism, the deaths of two of his friends last year, and a recent beating that landed him in the hospital — friends, family and acquaintances agree that Gabrielson put others before himself, sometimes to his own detriment. And contrary to one stereotype of chronically homeless people, it was clear he didn't choose the lifestyle he led. That much is evidenced by his 2017 interview with Milligan for a video series promoting Westside Cares.

"I’m a wuss on the streets. I hate the cold," Gabrielson says. "I don’t want to be out there for anything. I just sustained some medical issues and a [traumatic brain injury] and I just had some problems that unfortunately I found myself on the streets, and you know, it can happen to anybody... Sometimes I get in dire straits. I just, I’ve gone through this before and I’ve learned how to survive and take care of myself and what have you, but not everybody knows how to do that. And I’m just trying to do my part to do whatever I can to help anybody that needs the help utilize the resources that are available."

Johnson hopes Gabrielson's journey out of homelessness will inspire other patrons of Westside Cares, even if it did end in tragedy.

"Folks working here can say, 'Remember Paul? How he made changes in his life? There's hope.'"

Francie Crary, a volunteer who helped Gabrielson with his housing assessment, says she remembers a visible change in his appearance the last time she saw him at Westside Cares. It was a few days before he would receive the keys to his apartment.

"He was floating," Crary says. "I mean, he was so full of light anyway, but he was floating. He was absolutely floating."

Milligan takes comfort in one outtake from the interview that she still recalls.

"
I asked him what gave him hope, and he said God gave him hope," Milligan says. "Which makes me feel better about losing him... He believed that he was wrapped up in God’s arms, and that’s what I would wish for someone at their last moment."

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