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Fort Lupton North Range Behavioral Health celebrated 50 years of helping people with mental illness on July 14.
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“We’re excited about the 50-year celebration of our operations and private nonprofit,” said CEO Larry Pottorff.
Fort Lupton resident Genevieve LeBlanc, 89, worked as an occupational therapist for 24 years, treating patients with schizophrenia. She said she started working for the Weld Mental Health Center when it separated from the county to become a nonprofit in 1971. The group adopted the new name, North Range Behavioral Health, in 1997.
“I’m excited to be here for the celebration,” Leblanc said, from her wheelchair. “I helped change schizophrenics.”
Pottorff also started working for WMHC in 1983 as a vocational coordinator. The job was meant to be a short one; Pottorf’s job was funded through a one-year grant.
“It turned into 39 years,” he said. “Genevieve was one of my mentors and always had an amazing heart of compassion with people she worked with, which was one of our core values.”
“We have core values of customer-first compassion and collaboration. Genevieve embodied all of those because she cared very deeply about the people that she worked with and they loved her,” he said.
Genevieve Leblanc’s daughter, Mary Ellen, said she has good memories, too. Her mom started working at the center when Mary Ellen was just a baby, and so did she later, working part-time for the mental health center in 1980 when she was in college.
“I worked for the housing facility across the street from the center where folks stayed and lived,” Mary Ellen said. “We gave them their meds, and they had jobs so we monitored their curfews because they were required to be back to the house at a certain time. They also cook their meals. I loved it and I enjoyed working there.”
Continuing to evolve
The mental health center has continually evolved along with the community it serves. After it separated from the county, it became a halfway house to treat alcoholism, providing group, recreational therapy and medication supervision.
It expanded services and hours in 1972 and opened its first comprehensive children and family program in 1973, opened a peer counseling program for those 55 years old and older in 1977 and hired three licensed social workers in 1978. It also offered other kinds of support for the region, providing help for the families of victims of the Big Thompson flood in 1976.
The center began to treat people with significantly identifiable emotional and behavioral disorders in 1981, and opened Frontier House for psychosocial rehabilitation in 1990 and the Acute Treatment program in 1991.
According to officials, as of 2022, school-based services continue to expand in eight districts and over 50 schools. North Range is a licensed behavioral health entity, a new designation from the state of Colorado to streamline regulatory oversight of behavioral health facilities.
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