Page 1




We look forward to achieving our mission in partnership with you.

Last year RMHS created a new publication, Celebrate, to mark our 20 year history, announce our name change from Denver Options to Rocky Mountain Human Services and to inform our clients, supporters and the community of our aspiration to become the premier human service agency in the Rocky Mountain West. Creating “opportunity through expertise” is the goal—and the 350 highly trained and dedicated professionals who work at RMHS are committed to making that objective a reality every day. This year, we are happy to share stories of our progress and focus on the growth that allows us to better assist vulnerable populations throughout Colorado, while expanding into underserved areas in neighboring states, including… Our Child & Family Programs department launched new applied behavioral therapies, allowing us to better serve children affected by the growing epidemic of autism diagnoses. We will continue to support these children, and their families, by pursuing funding to create the region’s first comprehensive center for childhood autism and related neurodevelopmental disorders, focusing on a holistic approach that includes assessment, treatment and research. Our Life Skills & Support department is also working to improve outcomes for children through a new contract with the City and County of Denver to provide foster care to children with developmental disabilities. This initiative will allow more children to stay in their homes and help us to improve stability for this vulnerable population as they transition out of the foster care system and into services as adults.

Stephen R. Block, Ph.D.

RMHS Chief Executive Officer

We invite you to share in the celebration of our growth toward becoming the premier human services agency in the Rocky Mountain West.

We have also seen tremendous growth in our Military & Veteran Programs. The amazing success of the 2012 gala and the Operation TBI Freedom endowment challenge allowed us to raise more than $3 million in pledges and funding to provide ongoing support for our Veteran clients and their families. The exposure and momentum that resulted from these initiatives also opened doors to new partnerships and services. RMHS now collaborates with the Colorado Bar Association to provide legal assistance to clients through a grant from the Colorado Department of Military and Veteran Affairs and is increasing employment programming with support from the Department of Labor. Our Homes for all Veterans program also saw continued success in 2013. Begun just two years ago, the program was awarded funding from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to double the size of the program due to successful outcomes in placing homeless Veterans in stable housing. Next year we will assist 800 Veteran families with stable housing while addressing the underlying issues related to their homelessness. The program expansion also means a larger presence for RMHS outside the Front Range, with staff expansion in Grand Junction and new offices in Pueblo and Cheyenne, WY. We are excited about the success and growth of our programs, but this growth is only a means to a bigger end—the goal of providing the highest quality services to vulnerable populations across the Rocky Mountain region. We look forward to achieving our mission in partnership with you—the clients, families, elected officials, donors and friends who make it possible for us to “serve humanity, provide opportunity and encourage a world of compassion and hope” for all.

02 03 04 06 10 11 12 14 16 20 21 24 25 26 27


RMHS Celebrate | 01

On behalf of the people of Colorado,

it is my pleasure to congratulate Rocky Mountain Human Services (RMHS) on another successful year. The programs that Rocky Mountain Human Services provides to Colorado’s vulnerable populations are invaluable, and their recent growth and expansion is commendable.

Working with partners like RMHS, we are confident we can make Colorado an even better place to live for all people.

Over the past year, RMHS has expanded into the Grand Junction community, received the funding to double the size of its Homes for All Veterans program, raised $3 million to assist Colorado servicemen and women and Veterans with traumatic brain injury and increased services to children with autism. These are just a few examples of how RMHS is making a real impact in the lives of many Coloradans. Working with partners like RMHS, we are confident we can make Colorado an even better place to live for all people. We appreciate the efforts of RMHS, and wish them continued success in the future.

John W. Hickenlooper Governor of Colorado

Over the past 21 years, RMHS has grown from serving a small number of individuals with developmental disabilities in Denver County to serving nearly 10,000 individuals throughout the state, including professionals and Coloradans facing challenges from developmental delays, cognitive and intellectual impairments, brain injuries, aging or social conditions.

RMHS Celebrate | 02

2 Annual Gala

NOVEMBER 2, 2013





LT. MICHAEL THORNTON, FORMER U.S. NAVY SEAL, VIETNAM WAR MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT Michael earned the highest honor for his conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while participating in a daring operation against enemy forces. By his extraordinary courage and perseverance, Michael was directly responsible for saving the life of his superior officer and enabling the safe extraction of all patrol members.

Gala Sponsors




LTC Rozelle is an inspirational figure for American service members injured in recent conflicts. While in Iraq commanding 139 troops, Dave lost part of his right leg when a landmine exploded under his Humvee. Dave is the co-founder of the Vail Veterans Program that has been transforming military injured and their families through individualized outdoor programs. Dave is the first person in Operation Iraqi Freedom history to redeploy in command as an amputee.




Protecting Assets. Making a Difference.SM





RMHS Celebrate | 03


INTO TEAMWORK Terry Jahnke is a burly man, but he has a soft demeanor about him. His relaxed and easy-going nature belies the tremendous challenges he and his wife, Jennifer, have faced. Talking to Terry about his experiences in Iraq, it becomes obvious that for him it hasn’t been long since he was last in the desert. Terry served as a 19D Cavalry Scout on six deployments, the last one ending just five years ago in 2008. During his deployments, he endured numerous improvised explosive device (IED) blasts. Terry earned a Bronze Star Medal with Honor for saving his comrades during one such IED blast. Upon retiring from the Army, he processed out of the Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Carson, CO. The medical staff diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury (TBI) and Alzheimer’s disease. “I was lost,” Terry said. “They took away my driver’s license, my firearms and all of my financial rights. I was angry, confused and mad at the world. To make matters worse, the Army misfiled my separation papers and my pay was messed up. We were in severe financial crisis.” Terry’s wife, Jennifer, dedicated herself to going above and beyond in caring for her husband’s health issues and trying to resolve their financial problems. “He is always my first priority,” she stated. However, she also had her own health issues, and the added stress weighed heavily upon her. “Jennifer was at her wit's end; she had so much responsibility strung on her all at once,” Terry said. During this stressful period, she, too, was hospitalized. With piling debt and health concerns, the future looked ominous for Terry and Jennifer.

RMHS Celebrate | 04

“I was confused with the VA process,” he shared. “I didn’t know who to turn to or where to go for help.” Then the VA referred Terry to the Operation TBI Freedom (OTF) program at Rocky Mountain Human Services (RMHS). Immediately upon enrolling in OTF, Terry was linked up with Military Support Specialist Rob Altenbernd, who is a Veteran and a certified brain injury specialist. Rob conducted a comprehensive analysis of Terry and Jennifer’s needs and concerns. “They were frustrated,” Rob said. “Terry and Jennifer were in crisis; they didn’t know what the future held.” Rob remained in close contact with the two and served as their liaison, connecting them to the right people and places to get their life back on track. Rob immediately began advocating for the couple and helping them through the process to get Terry’s VA benefits in order. He also enrolled the couple in a financial skills workshop exclusively for OTF clients and their families, taught by RMHS staff. The

“Terry and Jennifer were in crisis; they didn’t know what the future held.” workshop gave Terry and Jennifer practical and immediately applicable information and strategies to stabilize their financial situation.

“Once their finances were under control, their stress levels went down, and I noticed a significant improvement in both Terry’s and Jennifer’s health,” Rob stated. Rob also leveraged Operation TBI Freedom’s extensive networks in the community to obtain assistive technology for Terry in the form of an iPad2. The larger screen accommodated for Terry’s vision problems from his combat injuries, and he was able to use the device for cognitive skills training.

“The teamwork I have seen develop between Terry and Jennifer has been incredible!” Rob shared. Terry recently celebrated his successful completion of the OTF program, and the couple is moving forward with renewed strength, ready to tackle any obstacles together.

With Rob’s guidance, the couple has achieved financial security and learned how to advocate for themselves and access community resources; most importantly, they have found new ways to support each other.

Operation TBI Freedom helped Terry and Jennifer learn how to work together to overcome obstacles.

Walk, jog or run with us this spring in the 5K, half marathon, urban 10-miler or full marathon! In 2013, Operation TBI Freedom was the second largest charity partner team at the Colfax Marathon. Help us be number one in 2014!

May 17th & 18th

To Register:

Take steps to show your support for injured Veterans!


Go to and click the “Register” button.


Select Operation TBI Freedom as your charity partner during the registration process.

Get your coworkers involved! Form a corporate relay team and ask your company to match the donations you raise.

To learn more visit or email

RMHS Celebrate | 05



Every 6.5 hours someone is born with autism in Colorado— over 1,300 babies each year

RMHS Celebrate | 06

Behavior therapy has reduced Amani’s frustration and self-injuring behavior

For more than 21 years, Rocky Mountain Human Services (RMHS) has provided clinical services for children with autism and their families in the greater Denver area. With many years of success behind them, the staff at RMHS is preparing to expand the organization’s reach and scope of autism services in the years to come.

demonstrate significant progress in one area, but struggle significantly in another. However, some individuals with autism demonstrate a great ability to focus, which lends them above-average memory, musical abilities or analytical thinking skills. Some scientists and researchers who have autism stand at the top of their respective fields.

What Is Autism?

RMHS offers a personalized, professional response to meet the unique needs of every child with autism.

One of the challenges of autism services is the slippery definition of the condition itself. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly one in 50 children have conditions that fall somewhere on the autism spectrum. In Colorado, the incidence of children with autism is higher than the national average. New research theorizes that autism develops in individuals who possess a genetic predisposition to the disorder and/ or who suffer the consequences of negative environmental factors that hinder brain development. There are three primary areas of difficulty that individuals with autism face: social skill development, communication issues and repetitive behavior. Sometimes these symptoms will change on a day-to-day basis. One day a child can

RMHS Response Crea Baca is a mother of three children in the Denver area. Her oldest son, Amani, is three years old and was recently diagnosed with autism. When Amani’s doctor realized the boy had a speech delay, he referred him to Rocky Mountain Human Services. Since that time, Amani has received speech and behavioral therapy from RMHS. “He is actually a really smart kid, really sweet,” Crea said, “but when he doesn’t get his way, he goes all out, and he throws the biggest fit.” Amani had difficulty communicating and would bang his head against the wall when he was frustrated. The experts at RMHS worked with Crea to develop

new communication strategies that have mitigated Amani’s behavior problems. RMHS provides a number of services to children with autism and their families. The Assessment & Consultation Team works to respond to the concerns of parents with children, birth to age three, in RMHS’ Early Intervention program, offering diagnostic evaluations as well as assessments of communication, sensory and motor skills, social and emotional development and adaptive and cognitive functions. The Children’s Clinical Services team has expertise across a range of developmental services that may be needed for children, birth to 18 years old. The team is comprised of clinical child psychologists, speech and language pathologists, occupational therapists, a behavior analyst, a behavior specialist, a special educator, a physical therapist, a registered dietician and a developmental pediatrician. Such a diverse and qualified team ensures the child—and the family—has all the resources needed.

Early Intervention During the ongoing intervention process, the team works with parents to develop a plan of services and monitors the child’s progress.

RMHS Celebrate | 07

Early intervention can help the toddler and family get a head start on education and skills development—and that has a longterm benefit on the child’s development. Many studies indicate that some children with developmental delays who receive early intervention services will not require special education or services later in life.

that works collaboratively with community partners to provide diagnostic evaluations, developmental assessments and intervention, and to participate in research and training to advance the understanding of autism and associated neurodevelopmental disorders.” The new RMHS center will provide services both on-site and in-home, providing maximum flexibility for parents like Crea.

In Amani’s case, the RMHS team was able to make real progress with his speech and behavior issues in a short amount of time.

Because of the significant financial costs associated with services for children with autism, RMHS helps families access multiple sources of funding, such as state and federal programs and private health insurance. RMHS plans to develop a scholarship for families who cannot afford intervention services for their children.

Where RMHS Is Headed Dr. Jodi Dooling-Litfin is a clinical child psychologist at Rocky Mountain Human Services and the director of Child & Family Programs. She sees RMHS expanding its scope of services in the years to come. “While we’re still serving toddlers with autism spectrum disorders in Denver County, we have expanded our services such that we are able to provide diagnostic evaluations, mental health services, speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy and behavior therapy to children with autism and their families throughout the Denver metropolitan area,” Dr. Dooling-Litfin said. These services will continue to be available to children with autism from the time they

are toddlers and into their late teen years. In addition to clinical services, RMHS can provide case management through the Family Support Program, which helps families with various needs navigate services from a variety of government and private sources. “We would eventually like to expand beyond the metropolitan area throughout the Rocky Mountain region,” Dr. DoolingLitfin said. “We plan to develop a center

As the mother of a child with autism, Crea is appreciative of RMHS’ services. She has seen a marked improvement in Amani’s behavior and development. “Once we began his behavior therapy, his behavior now has gone down a lot,” Crea said. She admits that his behavior isn’t perfect, but his progress has been stunning. “He’s a real outgoing, happy kid,” she said. Crea is currently working with RMHS to explore early schooling options for Amani.

There are approximately 13,000 children with autism in Colorado You can help kids like Amani by donating at

RMHS Celebrate | 08


Our annual SummerFest picnic is an opportunity to celebrate our diverse community and the progress of our clients. This fun-filled afternoon of food, games and music for our adult clients with developmental disabilities or brain injuries, their families and caregivers is organized by a team of employees.

RMHS Celebrate | 09

ON THE PATH TO CAREER SUCCESS When Tammie Hartford moved to Denver a year ago from Pennsylvania, she was confident she would be able to find work. “I thought I had everything I needed to get a job: I had my resume, I had experience and I knew what I wanted to do. Boy was I wrong!” she exclaimed. After applying for job after job without much progress, she was left feeling depressed, overwhelmed by the adjustment to an unfamiliar area and struggling to support herself, her 10-year-old daughter and her ailing mother. In order to keep her family afloat, Tammie sought assistance for housing and unemployment through Denver County. She was then connected to the 360˚ Program at Rocky Mountain Human Services, which provides job skills training and employment coaching for low-income families. At first Tammie was skeptical about how the 360˚ Program could help her, but working with Instructor Kim Shepherd and Employment Specialist Michael Kilgore, she quickly began to see the benefits. One of the first things they helped her with was overhauling her outdated resume. “I hadn’t changed it in ten years,” she admitted. “The resume building really helped a lot.”

RMHS Celebrate | 10

The 360˚ Program also gave her the opportunity to hone essential employment skills, build confidence and sharpen her professional image. Mock interviews helped Tammie refine her talking points, learn what to ask and ultimately feel more relaxed and poised during job interviews. Michael referred her to resources that provided hearing aids to address long-untreated hearing loss and clothing to build her professional wardrobe. Another key step along her path to employment was gaining on-the-job experience at a community-based training site, working as an executive assistant at a small home health agency. “The 360˚ Program partners with many local organizations to provide our clients with real-world job experience to make them more marketable to potential employers,” Michael explained.

Resume building, on-thejob experience, training and coaching have opened doors for Tammie.

“Having the ability to get work experience through the community-based training site was the most valuable part of the whole program,” Tammie stated. Once Tammie applied for a position at the VA, Michael was there to provide encouragement and guidance throughout the long, intensive application and interview process. “She had the tenacity to stick through it all,” shared Michael. “Her confidence has grown.” Her hard work resulted in a full-time position at the VA as a medical support assistant, serving as a liaison between doctors, head nurses and military Veterans and scheduling appointments. Now Tammie is proud to say that she was able to move her family to a safer neighborhood and is no longer relying on any type of county assistance. She recently earned her associate’s degree in medical administration and plans to go for her bachelor’s. “A lot of doors have opened for me,” she smiled.

REFLECTING ON LIFE THROUGH ART If you were to depict Kelly Strong’s life as a work of art, it would be a collage. Take a step back, and you see balance and brightness. It is dynamic and diverse. Look closer and you see layers of material. The edges of gray clouds are visible behind yellow sunshine; bits of blackness peek out behind serene blues. And while nothing is missing, it is not finished. More layers will come, building upon a personal history filled with joys and pain, friendships and creativity, scars and tenacity. Kelly was born with chromosome 18q- syndrome, a disorder afflicting one in 40,000 people. The syndrome presents differently in each person and often includes intellectual disability, malformations of the hands and feet and vision and hearing abnormalities. Kelly’s symptoms are mostly invisible, but her mom knew she was different from her siblings very early on. Kelly was in special education classes until sixth grade, when the decision was made to place her in mainstream classes following a complex surgery to give her two manmade eardrums in each ear; she had been born with none. “I started realizing I was different from the others,” Kelly said. Outside of school Kelly also endured some difficult personal tragedies, to which she responded with fear, paranoia and a need to escape. She began running away from the worst of it, but that also meant running from the best of it—a family that never stopped loving her. A family that filled her life with art. Her dad, who passed away when she was a toddler, played banjo and guitar. A sister draws. Her brother is a musician. A niece is a ballerina. Her nephew attends film school.

Today Kelly lives with her mom and is both a client of RMHS and an employee, working 20 hours a week as an office assistant. Her favorite part about working here is her coworkers. “There’s no gossiping and no talking about customers. It’s very professional.” She described working at RMHS as “unbelievable. I have to pinch myself a couple of times.” As a client, Kelly is a member of Art Impacts!, a new project providing artists with developmental disabilities the opportunity to learn from professionals and peers as they increase their skills. “Creating art together you get ideas from everybody else,” she said. Now Kelly creates drawings, watercolors and collages to reflect her personal experiences, adding piece by piece to the composition of her life.

Join us for the opening night reception: Friday, Nov. 15, 6-9 PM Access Gallery 909 Santa Fe Dr., Denver Show runs through Dec. 20

RMHS Celebrate | 11


GET BACK ON THEIR FEET For some Veterans, the tough economy, coupled with the difficulty of translating their skills to the civilian workforce, can leave them in a financial bind. For others, injuries, untreated mental health or substance abuse issues, divorce and other unforeseen changes in circumstance create havoc in their lives, leading to homelessness. Whatever the cause, Veterans struggling to find or keep a roof over their heads can find help through Rocky Mountain Human Services’ Homes for All Veterans (HAV) program. The HAV program was established in October 2011 with a grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and has already served 650 Veteran families who were homeless and more than 350 Veteran families who were at high risk of becoming homeless throughout Colorado. Now with increased funding from the VA, HAV is expanding services in Colorado and establishing services in Wyoming to prevent homelessness and to place very low income Veterans and their families in safe, stable housing while addressing the root causes of homelessness. Unfortunately, Veterans are at greater risk of becoming homeless than the general population. Although Veterans make up less than 8% of Colorado’s population, they comprise more than 12% of the state’s homeless population. In Denver, that gap is even wider; while only 5.5% of the city’s population is comprised of Veterans, nearly 17% of Denver’s homeless are Veterans. Tabatha, who lives in Rifle, was one of those Veterans who found herself down on her

RMHS Celebrate | 12

luck and facing the threat of homelessness. The 37-year-old Operation Iraqi Freedom Veteran and mother of four was struggling to find civilian employment and maintain stable housing and transportation. Tabatha was a pediatric radiologist for the U.S. Army National Guard but didn’t have the right connections to find work in her field of expertise. Once she was referred to HAV, Veteran Support Specialist Lydia DeLaRosa went to work pulling together resources and services to keep Tabatha and her children in a home and set her up for long-term success. Now she is back on her feet and has a full-time position with General Electric. “Thanks to the HAV program, my children are better off, and I am more optimistic for the future,” Tabatha shared. Homes for All Veterans currently serves Veterans throughout the State of Colorado from offices in Denver, Colorado Springs and Grand Junction. With the recent funding increase, the program expanded services in Denver, Colorado Springs, Grand Junction and Greeley. HAV will also open offices in Pueblo and Cheyenne, WY, to support Veterans from our neighboring state who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Veteran support specialists like Lydia assist Veterans from all eras and their families to obtain benefits, emergency food and financial resources, legal and financial planning services, employment assistance, healthcare and affordable housing. Lydia, who works with HAV clients on the Western Slope, is proud to be able to offer a helping hand to Veterans in need.

COL. CRAIG SCHLATTMANN (USAF, RET.) Homes for All Veterans Program Manager Craig is a retired Air Force Colonel with nearly 30 years of active duty service, including serving as a ground attack pilot and participating in operational assignments in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan. His extensive experience includes serving as the Chief of the Afghanistan Current Operations team on the International Military Staff at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, as well as staff positions with the European Union and the United Nations. He holds a master’s degree in aeronautical science and is a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and the NATO Defense College.

“My passion for this work is rooted in my personal history. I come from a combat Veteran family; my grandfather, father and two brothers all served,” Lydia explained. “When Veterans suffer setbacks like this, we can offer services and, more importantly, listen to their experiences and their needs. It is a privilege to serve these clients and their families.”

HAV helped Tabatha and her four children avoid homelessness and connected Tabatha to the resources she needed to find stable employment.






EMERGENCY FUND GIVES BOOST TO CHEERLEADER Being able to participate, practice and compete with his cheer team is a treasured pastime for 20-year-old James. James faces many challenges, including being born addicted to cocaine, cognitive delays and cerebral palsy. He also suffers from social and emotional issues related to abusive situations in his foster care. But he has found a way to shine through his struggles with cheerleading! “Cheerleading is better than any physical therapy he has ever had in terms of his physical progress,” his mother, Lorrie, explained. The activity has also helped James increase his selfesteem and lead a more active, fulfilling life. But when the family found themselves in a financial bind, the cost of James’ cheer team fees had to be cut from the family budget. That’s where Rocky Mountain Human Services’ emergency fund came in to help. Whether it be for dental work, a safer apartment or fees for a cheerleading team that means so much to someone who just can’t afford it, the emergency fund helps change the lives of those in need. With help from RMHS, the family could afford the cheer team fees. James was able to continue participating in an activity he loves, while staying active and maintaining the great friendships he has made. “It’s not just a team but a family through thick and thin,” he said.

Thanks to generous donors, RMHS is able to help clients with emergency funding needs when all other resources have been exhausted.

HOW WILL YOU BE REMEMBERED? Considering a planned gift to Rocky Mountain Human Services ensures that the most vulnerable children, adults and families in Colorado will continue to receive unsurpassed care and support. Planned giving advantages can include: • • •

Ability to make a larger gift than otherwise might be possible An opportunity for families to discuss financial planning and philanthropy Inheritance Tax Benefits for your beneficiaries

RMHS Celebrate | 14

Planned giving is not just for the wealthy, and it’s never too early to put a plan into place. Gifts of any size can make a significant impact for Colorado families. Planned gifts can include: • • • •

Insurance policies Real estate Wills Bequests

Not sure where to start, need more information or ready to designate a gift? Please contact your financial planner or our development office at (303) 636-5918.

WITH YOUR HELP, WE CAN CHANGE LIVES Through your generosity children with developmental disabilities receive therapy, families struggling to break the cycle of poverty obtain support and job training, adults who sustain a traumatic brain injury (TBI) acquire the tools and connection they need to rebuild their lives and veterans struggling with TBI or with homelessness are not abandoned.

Please donate today by using the enclosed postage-paid envelope or visiting

RMHS Celebrate | 15

NURTURING FOSTER CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS Antoinette Frey was 15 years old when she entered foster care. She suffered from an emotional disorder, and her mother could not provide her the support she needed. “When I was at home, I had anger issues,” Antoinette said. “Me and my mom always used to clash, and she couldn’t give me the care and the help that I needed. So she put me into a group home.” Children in foster care like Antoinette can have a tough time leaving their families and their homes and living under new guardians. In Denver County, children with disabilities who require foster care are sent to neighboring counties for services. Rocky Mountain Human Services (RMHS) is offering a new program aimed at keeping children with disabilities in foster care in their hometown. Julie Bansch-Wickert is a licensed clinical social worker who is working to develop the new foster care program at RMHS.

RMHS Celebrate | 16

She laments the current system of moving children who require foster care out of Denver to surrounding counties.

of Life Skills & Support at RMHS, under which the new Foster Care Services will be housed.

“Not only is this exorbitantly expensive, but removing kids from their communities and counties of origin is disruptive, traumatizing and only serves to exacerbate an already difficult set of circumstances for these children,” Julie said.

“One of the primary reasons children go into foster care is because they have intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families cannot, for multiple reasons, continue to care for them,” Jodi said.

“Our end goal is to provide these kids with a safe, nurturing, quality residential experience where they can heal and reach their fullest potential.” According to the latest U.S. Department of Health and Human Services statistics, there were almost 6,500 children in foster care in Colorado at the end of 2011. While there has been a downward trend in this number over the last several years, the need for additional services—especially for children with disabilities—is still great. Jodi Merrill-Brandt is currently the director

Developmental disabilities can range from pronounced learning challenges, specific classifications such as autism or attention deficit disorder, emotional disorders (like Antoinette’s anger issues) or various forms of intellectual disability. According to the National Council on Disability’s 2008 study, roughly 30-40% of children in foster care receive special education services, which is higher than the national average for children not in foster care. RMHS is uniquely qualified to help provide additional services to foster parents who need help in caring for and educating children with disabilities. A variety of educational and

behavioral specialists, child psychologists and other experts work within the organization. It was this collection of expertise and experience that led the state and county governments to approach RMHS to become a Child Placement Agency, one that would be tailored for the needs of children with disabilities in foster care. It aims to correct the lack of available providers and services in Denver. “We have expertise in the area of intellectual disabilities and also have provided services in Early Intervention and Family Support for families who have children with intellectual disabilities,” Jodi said.

21 and age out of the program, they will already have an established relationship with RMHS staff. Their transition to adult services, Jodi hopes, will be seamless.

“Our end goal is to provide these kids with a safe, nurturing, quality residential experience where they can heal and reach their fullest potential.”

That internal expertise will be a key part in collaboration within the organization, ensuring the children and families receive the services they need for a successful foster care placement within Denver County.

Antoinette left foster care services after turning 20 years old. She then ended up working with RMHS to receive full residential services, including a live-in caregiver, Breonda Johnson.

RMHS has services for adults with developmental disabilities that are already in place. When children in foster care turn

“I’ve been in several host homes,” Antoinette said. “Being with Bree helps—she’s one of my favorites.”

Antoinette is very satisfied with the work Bree does on her behalf. She described the woman as her personal hero, and someone for whom she deeply cares. Had RMHS been a part of her foster care—as it will be with this new program—Antoinette could have experienced a personalized transition from child to adult services, with her needs well-documented and met. The quality of care that RMHS provides Antoinette as an adult will soon be available to children in foster care across Denver County, and their transition to adult services will be a smooth one. The difference will be in RMHS’ dedicated staff and host home providers and the relationships staff are able to develop and sustain with their clients. For Antoinette, Bree has already had a big impact. “She is the best. I’ve been with Bree for a year and a half. I just feel like she’s the greatest thing I have in my life.”

RMHS Life Essentials Specialist Nicole Dietz (left) and host home provider Breonda Johnson (second from left) work together to create a supportive atmosphere for Antoinette (right), who is very close to Breonda’s son Myles.

30-40% of children in foster care receive special education services

Almost 6,500 children in foster care in Colorado

RMHS Celebrate | 17

JODI MERRILL-BRANDT Director of Life Skills & Support

Jodi oversees in-home and community-centered care, programming and services for adults with developmental disabilities or long-term care needs and elders. Jodi has 30 years of experience in the human services field, including: •

Managing group homes for children with intellectual disabilities

JULIE BANSCH-WICKERT Foster Care Services Program Manager

Julie holds a Master of Social Work degree, and she is a licensed clinical social worker and a certified brain injury specialist. Julie has 30 years of experience in the human services field, including: •

Providing direct care to teenagers with severe developmental disabilities

Managing a group home for teen boys with emotional and behavior concerns

Supervising investigations of potential mistreatment, abuse, neglect or exploitation of children or adults with developmental disabilities

Developing protocols for caregiver screening

Overseeing direct care staff and more than 100 contractors

Educating staff and contractors on rules and regulations governing direct care

Creating and implementing health and safety plans for clients

Advocating for clients to ensure their optimum health and safety

Ensuring clients received proper medical and dental care and any necessary medication

Monitoring living arrangements and support services to ensure they meet the highest standards of care

Monitoring living arrangements and support services to ensure they meet the highest standards of care

Support Rocky Mountain Human Services on Colorado Gives Day!

Tuesday, December 10 online at

24 hours to give where you live RMHS Celebrate | 18

Support the nonprofits that protect and nurture quality of life in Colorado.


We believe that providing opportunities to enjoy social activities and form friendships is an integral part of helping our clients thrive. Our employees organize a variety of events throughout the year to help build a sense of community for our clients.

Operation TBI Freedom clients, program graduates and their families found camaraderie at picnics hosted in Denver and Colorado Springs.

Children with developmental disabilities from around the Denver metro area were invited to attend Spring Fling, an annual dance for students who might not otherwise be able to attend prom.

Clients in our Adult Programs enjoyed an evening of music and socializing and got a chance to show off their moves at the annual Adult Dance.

RMHS Celebrate | 19

EMPOWERING WOMEN TO HELP EACH OTHER What do you do when you’re struggling with how to handle a difficult situation? Many people naturally turn to their friends or others in their social network for ideas and advice. For individuals with developmental disabilities, finding a peer to turn to who understands their unique perspective may not always be so easy to come by. That’s why the Behavioral Health team at Rocky Mountain Human Services leads a weekly therapy group exclusively for women with developmental disabilities. The therapy group, which is limited to six members, gives the women an outlet to discuss issues that come up in their everyday lives and receive constructive feedback from their peers, with guidance from Board Certified Behavior Analyst Riki Towle. “My favorite part about group is getting to share my problems, and then when I go somewhere, I know what I’m doing,” explained group member Debra Smith. Casey Gunning, a new member to the

RMHS Celebrate | 20

group, added that her goal in joining is “to be more honest with other people and with myself.” The women share their challenges on topics ranging from dealing with family conflicts to finding ways to communicate with coworkers, and they encourage each other in taking steps toward resolving issues and achieving personal goals. “The group provides a safe place to discuss their concerns without being afraid that their issues will be minimized or seen as unimportant,” Riki explained. “I assist them in exploring different sides of an issue, and we often use role playing in group sessions to help members practice appropriate responses to certain situations or problems.” The women take great pride in supporting each other. “I really like helping everybody with their problems and what they should do,” shared Reynalda Butler. The other five group members echoed her sentiment, with Shirleen Olson stating, “Everybody helps each other.”

Riki noted that the women are not only improving their problem-solving and conflict resolution skills but also growing their self-esteem. “Being able to help each other empowers the women to resolve their own issues and gives them confidence to advocate for themselves.”

“Being able to help each them confidence to advocate for themselves.”

SUPPORTING FAMILY CAREGIVERS Dr. Inna Porter is much like any other working mom on the go. She constantly strives to balance her career and her family life, as she works full time as a professional counselor and raises two young sons with her husband. What is unique about her situation is that her oldest son has autism and her youngest son has Asperger’s syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder. Complicating their care is her husband’s own medical issues. He had to leave his career when he became legally blind. A local health organization referred Andrew, Inna’s oldest son, to Rocky Mountain Human Services (RMHS) because of his needs. “He has autism, and he doesn’t communicate,” Inna said. “He needs to be watched 24/7.” Andrew, age 7, needs constant supervision, because he can often put himself into dangerous situations.

“He is on the level of an 18-month-old,” Inna said. “He could put things in his mouth, jump from the second floor. He can get into danger; he can run away.” That kind of constant supervision was something that Inna and her husband simply couldn’t provide by themselves. In order to help her take care of Andrew and his younger brother, Inna hired a woman who immigrated to the United States from Ukraine. Halyna Biryuk has since worked as the Porter family’s live-in nanny. “She has been with us five years already,” Inna said.

“She knows the child. She knows his needs; she knows what to watch for.”

Halyna has become a part of the family, providing critical one-on-one attention and care for Andrew while Inna is at work. Children with autism can sometimes negatively respond to changes in their environment, including the introduction of new people. Because Halyna has spent so much time with Andrew, he accepts her and responds to her better than he would a new caregiver. RMHS helped Halyna obtain extensive training that relates to her work with Andrew. “She was trained by a speech pathologist and a behavioral specialist and has been trained in occupational therapy,” Inna said. “She knows the child—she knows his needs; she knows what to watch for.” For the Porter family, there could be no better in-home caregiver for Andrew than Halyna. “He grew up with her,” Inna said.

RMHS Celebrate | 21

Halyna has become a part of the family, providing critical one-on-one attention and care for Andrew.

RMHS Celebrate | 22

Left: Halyna speaks to Andrew in Russian Right: Inna and Halyna share a strong bond The Porter family’s relationship with Halyna is unique. Inna is an immigrant herself, coming from Belarus. Halyna primarily speaks Russian, a language Inna speaks fluently. Halyna speaks very little English. When Inna realized that Rocky Mountain Human Services intended to provide the family with an in-home caregiver for Andrew, she knew that Halyna was the right woman for the job. Inna worked with Shannon Hanna, a RMHS provider network specialist, to get everything in place for Halyna to contract with RMHS and continue her care of Andrew. “Halyna does not speak English much at all, so I told them that there is this difficulty,” Inna said. “She can do any care that a handson provider would do, but I didn’t know how she could become a provider because of the language difficulties.” Inna knew that if she could interpret for Halyna, she could take the proper courses and become a contractor. That is where RMHS came in.

“I scheduled two appointments both about three hours long to go through orientation and requirements,” Hanna said. “Inna would interpret as I explained the information.” The company that provided one of the required courses for Halyna’s certification would not allow Inna to sit in to translate. Shannon and RMHS found an alternative solution—an online class. When Inna was not at work, she went through the online class with Halyna and translated for her. Once her training was complete, Halyna was officially contracted with RMHS as a caregiver. Shannon and other RMHS staff worked to address the unique needs of the Porter family and worked with them to develop a solution that suited their needs. Keeping Halyna in the home as the care provider was the best possible outcome for Andrew. Explaining the contracting and certification process for an in-home caregiver was just one facet of the Porter family’s relationship with RMHS.

“There’s a lot of help that every parent with children with autism needs,” Inna said. It’s often difficult for a parent to enter the complex world of waivers, Medicaid, services and benefits. RMHS helped the Porters navigate that process and responded to their unique situation by working to get them the necessary resources. “They understood the situation,” Inna said. Inna and Hanna have since developed a high level of mutual respect that is unique to client-staff relations. Hanna admires Inna’s work ethic and dedication to getting her son the best care possible. As for Inna, she hopes that other families will look to RMHS for the same highquality, personalized care and attention that her family received—especially from staff members like Hanna. “She was the first one I contacted, and I think she did so much,” Inna said.

RMHS Celebrate | 23

THE LONG JOURNEY BACK TO WORK AFTER BRAIN INJURY Michael Voliton nearly lost his life in a car accident in 1999. He was in a coma for two weeks and spent four months in the hospital recovering. The traumatic brain injury (TBI) he sustained in the accident left him with dramatically different prospects for his future. Faced with memory loss, communication issues, exhaustion caused by overstimulation and a lengthy rehabilitation process, Michael’s doctors told him he may never be able to return to work—but he was determined to reach that goal. Before the accident, Michael had enjoyed a long, successful career in the corporate travel industry. “I just wanted to work and to keep my pace going,” he said. He dedicated himself to rebuilding the skills his TBI had taken away and laying the groundwork to achieve his employment goal. He worked with rehabilitation specialists at Craig Hospital, enrolled in the Brain Injury Support program at Rocky Mountain Human Services (RMHS) and began attending Brain Injury Survivor Series workshops at RMHS. Through Craig Hospital and RMHS, Michael was able to connect to

“The people at RMHS are great! I had to give back to them because of all they’ve done for me.”

RMHS Celebrate | 24

numerous resources to help him restore his cognitive functions and job skills. Although the effects of his TBI kept him from paid employment, he began volunteering countless hours of his time to community organizations. An avid sports fan, he referees local high school basketball games. He also volunteered for two and a half years with RMHS, assisting the Brain Injury Support program staff with office duties ranging from stuffing envelopes and assembling information packets to making copies. “I really enjoyed volunteering,” Michael shared. “The people at RMHS are great! I had to give back to them because of all they’ve done for me, and I wanted to do it to help other individuals going through the same thing I am.” RMHS staff worked with Michael to train him and help him balance his workload

Michael has used volunteer work to help him rebuild job skills.

in a way that would build his skills while being cognizant of the limitations created by his TBI. Despite the odds stacked against him, Michael has chipped away at the obstacles with perseverance and positivity and has recently started working part-time as a ticketing agent at Denver International Airport. Although he misses the camaraderie of volunteering at RMHS, he is thrilled to be back in a paid position again and is tackling the challenges at his new job with characteristic drive and enthusiasm. “I love it. I’m tired, but I’m managing it and getting through,” he said. “Having a job is great!” Many things have changed since Michael last worked in the travel business, but he is taking it all in stride. “It’s really tough at first, but I’m learning. You have to take your time.” It has been a long journey back to work after that fateful accident more than a decade ago, but Michael’s incredible spirit and strong work ethic, coupled with support from the brain injury community, will ensure he continues to grow his accomplishments.


BRAIN INJURY ASSESSMENT AND CARE According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1.7 million individuals incur a traumatic brain injury (TBI) each year in the United States. Rocky Mountain Human Services, in collaboration with key community partners, is working to mitigate the effects of TBI for adults in Colorado through a number of initiatives and programs.

problem was that current tools to assess this need were cumbersome at best and fairly limited in their ability to accurately assess need.

In 2006 RMHS received a contract from the State of Colorado to provide services and support to any adult living in Colorado with a traumatic brain injury. Working in collaboration with the Brain Injury Alliance of Colorado, a nonprofit advocacy organization charged with assessing client eligibility, RMHS staff provided ongoing case management support for clients—including resource referral, classes to mitigate the effects of TBI and financial support for therapies and assistive technology devices.

Craig, a nationally renowned hospital specializing in spinal cord and brain injuries, was instrumental in the development of RMHS’ brain injury programs, helping us to take our case management expertise with individuals with developmental disabilities and apply it to clients with brain injuries.

Unfortunately, budget constraints and dwindling funding have forced the state to discontinue dollars previously earmarked for purchased services for TBI clients. These decreases in funding resulted in the need for RMHS to reconsider how to best help clients after their injury. Providing a stratified level of support based on client need is one way to efficiently use limited resources while assuring clients with the greatest needs are prioritized. The

Thankfully, RMHS has enjoyed a long and beneficial relationship with one of the nation’s leaders in brain injury research. Craig Hospital has long been working side by side with RMHS to support individuals with TBI.

Over the years Craig staff has served as professional advisors and on our Board of Directors; they have given selflessly of their time and experience to help train our staff and make key introductions in the brain injury community.

New Orleans to present on the new tool at the North American Brain Injury Society Conference. Through creative and strategic partnerships with respected organizations and associations, RMHS will continue to lead the region in brain injury support and services, developing new tools to help clients despite a changing funding landscape.


Alan H. Weintraub, M.D. Cindy Harrison-Felix, Ph.D. Jeff Cuthbert, Ph.D., MSOT, MPH

Most recently, Craig Hospital and RMHS are partnering on a research project that hopes to accurately and efficiently assess the level of services needed by a client, while also providing a quantitative avenue to track client progress and recovery. This assessment tool, called the RMHS Level of Care Assessment, is currently being tested and is gaining momentum in the brain injury community. This fall, RMHS and Craig Hospital staff traveled to

Jennifer Anderson, CBIS Christen Mason, CBIS Oversight from Kathy Martin, BSN, MPA, CBIS Stephen Block, Ph.D.

We have been honored to partner with Craig Hospital and the Colorado Brain Injury Program to develop and implement a tool to aid us in better serving individuals living with brain injuries. This would not have been possible without the collective expertise, passion and guidance of our partners and our staff. Jennifer Anderson, Associate Director of Brain Injury Support and Military & Veteran Programs

RMHS Celebrate | 25

Military & Veteran Programs


GROW SERVICES TO OUR NATION’S HEROES Rocky Mountain Human Services launched our first military-specific program, Operation TBI Freedom (OTF), in 2008 with the vision and funding from local business leader Robert “Dob” Bennett. In the past five years, OTF has assisted almost 1,000 men and women who have served in the military since 9/11 and sustained a traumatic brain injury. In November 2012 we hosted our first annual gala with amazing success, generating greater awareness and raising more than $250,000 for OTF and our Child & Family Programs. On the heels of this event, Dob Bennett and Dr. John Malone issued an endowment challenge, with each business leader matching donations to OTF, helping us raise nearly $3 million in pledges and funding to ensure the program’s long-term sustainability.

RMHS Celebrate | 26

The success of Operation TBI Freedom resulted in a second military program, launched in October 2011: Homes for All Veterans (HAV). HAV addresses homelessness for Veterans and their families throughout Colorado. After exceeding its goals for its first two years, HAV opened two new offices in 2013 and added staff in existing locations. Success often breeds more success, especially when coupled with community support. In 2013 we initiated two new services under our Military & Veteran Programs. Veteran Employment Services (VES) helps El Paso County Veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless find meaningful employment. VES provides employment readiness services and introduces Veterans to businesses eager to hire our nation’s heroes. We thank the entire Colorado Springs business community for their

support; your appreciation of the value Veterans bring to employers is the key to our success. Our newest program is a partnership with the Colorado Bar Association (CBA). Burg Simpson attorney and active CBA member Diane Smith worked with RMHS to establish a new program to provide free legal services to homeless Veterans, assisting them with foreclosures, evictions and other barriers to safe, stable housing. Thanks are due to Diane, and also to the 200 members of the CBA’s Colorado Lawyers for Colorado Veterans for the generous contribution of their time and talents.

GOOD LAWYERS CHANGING LIVES “Philanthropist” might not be the first adjective that comes to mind when discussing trial lawyers, but Peter Burg and the lawyers of Burg Simpson are doing their best to create a little cognitive dissonance on the stereotype behind the profession. Peter Burg, his brother Michael and former Senator Al Simpson lead Burg Simpson Eldredge Hersh & Jardine, PC, one of the nation’s leading plaintiff trial law firms. Established in 1976, the goal of the firm has always been to provide exemplary legal services for clients while making the community a better place. They seek to truly live their motto—Good Lawyers, Changing Lives—and encourage all of their staff to engage with the community and support the charity of their choice. After being introduced to Rocky Mountain Human Services (RMHS) through his volunteer work and Board service with Craig Hospital, Peter Burg jumped in to help RMHS and brought the expertise and energy of his firm along for the ride. Within months, Peter and others at Burg Simpson provided pro bono legal advice for clients of Operation TBI Freedom and invited RMHS staff to present on our programs and services at a firm staff meeting. Peter joined the RMHS governing Board of Directors and the 2013 Gala Committee and encouraged his staff to get involved with RMHS if their passion aligned with our mission. As a result, Diane Vaksdal Smith, another shareholder at the firm, joined the Operation TBI Freedom Advisory Board and introduced RMHS to members of the Colorado Bar Association, leading to a partnership and funding to provide legal assistance to veterans with TBI and PTSD. Garrick Munday, the firm’s marketing director, also stepped up, collaborating on co-advertising that will appear in the Denver Business Journal’s “Giving Guide” this fall and commercials highlighting Rocky Mountain Human Services that have been airing since July. “Partnering and giving to meaningful nonprofits like RMHS is good business for a multitude of reasons. First, and foremost, it feeds your soul and keeps you humble and grounded as a fellow human being,” Peter said. “As a trial lawyer it also has allowed people to embrace that our firm is different and prioritizes caring, compassion and a call

to action for those who may be in need, while contemporaneously enababling us to provide good counsel and legal services of the highest quality.” RMHS and Burg Simpson are continuing to look for additional ways to create a win-win for both organizations through joint ventures. The overwhelming participation and commitment from Peter and his staff compelled us to nominate Peter for the Denver Business Journal’s “Corporate Citizen of the Year” award that will be announced later this fall—and have us wondering if “trial lawyers” and “angels” might just be undercover synonyms after all.

To learn more about Burg Simpson please visit

INTERESTED IN CREATING A PARTNERSHIP WITH RMHS? To discover how your company can create a successful partnership that aligns with your business strategy, please feel free to get in touch. I look forward to brainstorming creative options to help your company stand out in the marketplace, while creating opportunity for the most vulnerable members of our community. Annie Davies, Director of Communications & Development | (303) 636-5918

RMHS Celebrate | 27

1992 S O C I E T Y

The 1992 Society commemorates our long history of serving the community, beginning January 2, 1992. Our 1992 Society is a leadership recognition designation for donors and companies making a gift of $1,992 or more on an annual basis. Rocky Mountain Human Services’ annual donors at the leadership level of $1,992 and above are critical partners in helping vulnerable families throughout Colorado live healthy, productive lives. Society members are invited to join the CEO, Board of Directors and other business and community leaders for special receptions throughout the year and are recognized in all RMHS published donor reports.

Learn more at RMHS Celebrate | 28


We hosted our first ice cream social for children with developmental disabilities and their families! The event included games, face painting, a bouncy castle, animals from the Downtown Aquarium and a special appearance by the Denver Broncos cheerleaders. The ice cream social provided a welcoming, inclusive atmosphere and gave children and parents alike an opportunity to socialize and build connections with other families of children with special needs.

RMHS Celebrate | 29


NONPROFIT ORG. U.S. POSTAGE PAID DENVER, CO PERMIT NO. 169 9900 East Iliff Avenue | Denver, CO | 80231


Donating your old vehicle is convenient and easy, and it will make a big difference in supporting people with developmental disabilities and traumatic brain injuries. Vehicles For Charity will take care of everything at no charge to you.

All you need to do is call:

1-866-628-CARS (1-866-628-2277)

Check out our blog and podcast! Like us on Facebook! Sign up for our e-newsletter! Stay updated on volunteer opportunities, campaigns, community events and our successes. Visit our website to sign up!

Celebrate is published annually by Rocky Mountain Human Services, a nonprofit organization that serves vulnerable populations throughout the Rocky Mountain region. For questions about Celebrate, email

Robert Bingham Kelsey Gibbons Ann Gifford Jonathan Raab Layout by Lauren Boone

Communications & Development

Annie Davies, Director Katie Goulet, Editor

Board Of Directors

Roger Schmitz, Chair Sean Gallagher, Vice Chair Kimberly D. Smith, Treasurer William Fay, Secretary Marlon Anderson Brad Baumgartner Steve Binder Peter W. Burg, Esq. Bill Parkhill Amy Ross Kimberly Ryan, JD, MPA Sue Schreiner, RN, MSN Stephanie Townsend Niki Frangos Tuttle Stephen Block, Ph.D., CEO

RMHS Celebrate: Growth  

This edition of our annual magazine highlights the growth of our programs and features some client success stories.

RMHS Celebrate: Growth  

This edition of our annual magazine highlights the growth of our programs and features some client success stories.