Benchmark Blog

First Quarter Thrive – January, 2023

Jan 05, 2023
Benchmark Blog

Welcome to Thrive, the Benchmark employee newsletter. Enjoy, and please share any stories you would like to include in a future issue with Courtney Heiser or Simon May!

The Power of Integration

By Doug Beebe, Benchmark President

Poet and naturalist Diane Ackerman on life:

“I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I just lived the length of it. I want to live the width of it as well.”

Over the years I have been with Benchmark, many of you have heard me say that one of our biggest challenges is supporting those we serve to become part of their community. The above quote captures that for me in a way I have not heard before, as being part of a community offers the breadth of experiences many of those we serve have never had an opportunity to enjoy. It doesn’t matter what diagnostic label is applied to a person, but people who have medical, behavioral, or physical challenges are often disenfranchised by the very communities they live in.

The idea of community integration has been with us for a long time. COVID made this even more of a challenge, as entire communities shut down and regulatory bodies limited community access and integration activities in an effort to keep highly vulnerable people safe. As we have emerged from those restrictions, I see remarkable things happening across Benchmark to enfranchise people.

In Georgia, our Autism program is based in the community so kids are not pulled out of school for 40 hours of therapy in a segregated setting. In our programs targeting improving the capacity of other providers to serve people with more complex needs, we are connecting people to better behavior supports and community services so they move out of a tragically vicious crisis cycle. Residentially, Benchmark continues to focus on moving individuals out of institutions and into communities with appropriate medical and psychiatric supports. These are a few of the examples of truly remarkable services across so many of our programs and age ranges, and they are all possible because of the incredible work each and every one of you does.

This has led to a number of states reaching out to us to see which innovations we can bring to support their most disenfranchised individuals. You will see some very exciting projects emerging over the next few years as we continue to stretch and grow to better serve the individuals we support. My predecessor stated this very well with one of my favorite corporate principles:

“Very few corporations produce a more important service or product. We deal with things that make life worth living.”

Thank you for all you do every day!

Benchmark Past, Present, and Future: Thoughts from our Newly Minted Chief Operating Officer, David Ross

By David Ross, Benchmark Chief Operating Officer

One of the things I love most about Benchmark is how we have worked to expand our mission for people that others will not serve and at the same time diversified our lines of business. With that, a balancing act is required to stay true to the principles that have made us marketable while engaging new services and geographic markets. To continue this success, we must be principle-centered, business savvy, and an ever-learning organization. We must be innovators with “legacy services” and new service launches.

Specific aspects of our DNA are a huge part of who we are and will shape where we are going. It would be easy to quote some corporate principles because they have remained central to how we provide service and do business. They are OUR COMPASS. Nonetheless, I will list a couple of long-standing beliefs and practices to which I think we must stay true and expand upon in the coming months and years:

Data-driven decision-making: Mark Flegge, CFO, and his team have built an extraordinary infrastructure allowing us to harvest and analyze data to know where to improve our efforts. Bringing on Acumatica will give us even more tools. Excellent data analytics will allow us to make good business decisions by analyzing existing programs and forecasting the viability of new ventures. Margie Cantey, Chief Compliance Officer, and her team are also developing new and improved tools for measuring and analyzing data relative to quality. In 1992, AWS embarked on a “continuous Improvement” movement that I believe became the accelerant for our early growth. I am extremely excited about Doug Beebe, CEO, bringing Lean Six Sigma into our organization. I believe this will be the vehicle around which teams can assemble and address innumerable quality/business improvements and opportunities. I encourage as many employees as possible to be trained at least through yellow belt and to see this NOT as a program but as OUR WAY of doing business.

Define our mission, “disability,” and service sites broadly: We have always done this! Whenever we have served people that others would not, it was often because of this entrepreneurial approach. This truth has led us to be leaders in deinstitutionalization and to do community employment for people with serious mental illness despite local providers who did placement services but “not for that population.” If people are marginalized in some manner, we have tried to bring solutions. For example, from the beginning (1990s), Infant and Toddler services met families in their homes and the community. This tends to be a better place than a sterile office to conduct assessments or therapies. Our Crisis and Family Preservation Services meet people at their most vulnerable times and usher competence and hopefulness into their situations. Our ongoing expansion into case management and behavioral health are extraordinary opportunities to further define how we will bring excellence in service to new people in new markets.

As we go about improving and expanding services, we truly have the greatest support teams: Accounting, Communications/Marketing, Payroll, IT, Compliance, Legal, and our administrative support staff are the best. They are the fuel in our engines, and they do extraordinary work. Make an extra effort to thank them and support them as they continue to flex and grow to support us. I plan to start hosting a program “show and tell” on the last Friday of each month at headquarters for support teams to hear your stories, receive our thanks, and strengthen the tether of connectedness we share as we accomplish our mission.

The exemplary and unswerving efforts of staff bringing leading and throughput to quality services have led to best practices, which in turn, have led us to a position of consulting with leadership in many states to help improve services for so many lives. You have much to be proud of, yet there is far more need and opportunity ahead of us. I am humbled to be selected, and supported by so many, as our first Chief Operating Officer. I am so proud to be a part of this organization, both its past and its future, and to be part of this like-minded family. I want to serve you so we can Do More Good Together!

From the Front Lines


Ronnise Showes, Day Services Team Leader, Ohio

What is the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is getting to serve the individuals we work with and seeing the smiles on their faces every day while we are out in the community. Being that person is a privilege.

What is the most challenging part of your job?
Staffing availability – there are many days when we are short on staff, and I try to be the best team leader I can possibly be and set an example by pitching in to help fill in the gaps.

Tell us about a New Year’s Resolution you actually stuck with!
My background is in early learning daycare with special needs children. My resolution in 2021 was to work with adults with disabilities in a management position. Coming to Benchmark, I got to do exactly that in June 2021! I started in a residential program and was promoted to the Dayton, OH Supported Living supervisor. I now work in Cincinnati as the Day Service team leader.

Geneirah Jones, Day Services Team Leader, New Jersey

What is the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is giving individuals a sense of normalcy – making sure they feel heard and giving them a say in what they want to do for the day. When I implement an activity they suggested or came up with, and they want to tell everyone about it, it makes them feel good.

What is the most challenging part of your job?
One challenging part of my job is getting staff and individuals motivated about change / new ideas. We are all hesitant about change sometimes and although it’s necessary, it won’t always be easy. You won’t know if something will work or could have worked better if you don’t give it a try.

Tell us about a New Year’s Resolution you actually stuck with!
One of my New Year’s resolutions that I stuck to was more “me time!” I set my cell phone 10 minutes ahead of time. When I’m rushing out of the house, I always feel flustered and as if I’m chasing the day. And nine times out of ten, I’ve forgotten something and have to go back. So now with my extra 10 minutes in the morning it’s my “me time,” my “how are you feeling time,” it’s my get centered time with the man above, so that I have control over my day and not the day controlling me.

DEI Assessment Update

By Antoinette Thornton, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee Chair

On behalf of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee, thank you to those who responded to the recent DEI survey administered by Simply HR, in addition to those who participated in the focus groups.

Benchmark’s engagement with Simply HR included a mixed methodology assessment of our overall DEI practices, including the survey, focus groups with employees throughout the company, and an evaluation of our policies and procedures, training opportunities, HR and hiring practices, and marketing and communications.

The Committee has received the results and is currently reviewing trends, areas of opportunity, and established best practices. The information gained from this process will help the Committee to develop a strategic, long-term plan and set goals for the coming year and beyond. As we continue through this process, all goals will be shared companywide to promote transparency and progress.

Additionally, we will facilitate various town hall-style meetings in early 2023 to talk about this process, the results, and our plans moving forward. Look for more information about these virtual events on the Intranet, in the Benchmark app, and via your supervisor.

As a Committee, our goal is to ensure Benchmark is a diverse and equitable workplace, where all employees feel a sense of belonging. Those goals extend to the individuals we serve and our efforts to ensure inclusion for everyone in all facets of life. We have work to do, but your feedback provides an excellent foundation to help shape the future of Benchmark.

Holiday and Winter Fun on Social Media

You know, you don’t have to wait until Thrive comes out to see some great photos of the individuals we serve from all over the country! Follow us on social media, just search Benchmark Human Services on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Also, if you would like to share any photos you’ve taken of or with the individuals in your area on social media, please send them to Simon May!


Netsmart CareThreads Podcast with Benchmark

Four of our colleagues were interviewed by Netsmart CEO Mike Valentine for their CareThreads podcast. Click the image below to check out the conversation with Doug Beebe, CEO; Anne Titus, Vice President; Dr. John Lovett, Alabama Director; and Sarah Chestnut, Director of Development Strategies about serving individuals with complex needs.


Benchmark Launches Mobile Crisis Services in Northeast Indiana

This month, Benchmark launched a new Mobile Crisis Response program in Indiana, awarded through the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) Division of Mental Health and Addiction (DMHA). The program is a one-year pilot project to provide behavioral health mobile crisis services in DeKalb, LaGrange, and Steuben counties in Indiana. The goals of the pilot are to prevent fatalities from suicide, drug overdose, and other mental health and substance use emergencies, and better serve individuals in crisis outside of hospitals, emergency departments, and jails.

Benchmark has assembled a team of certified peer specialists and behavioral health professionals available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to respond to individuals experiencing a behavioral health crisis wherever they are in the community. The team will intervene and support individuals in crisis, stabilizing the immediate situation and linking the individual to appropriate resources in their communities.

Chad Minier is heading up the team for Benchmark, under the leadership of vice president, Brian Gill. Chad has degrees in Social Science and Psychology and will complete his masters in Social Work in April. He has extensive experience in behavioral health working in the communities Benchmark will serve through this contract.

The program went live on January 3. Individuals in those communities can access services by calling 9-8-8, the national mental health crisis hotline.

Reflection and Gratitude in the COVID-19 Era

By Karen Shollenberger, Benchmark Vice President

It’s hard to believe we have been living through a global pandemic for almost three years. I vividly recall the first COVID-19 (COVID) planning meeting with administrative staff in March 2020. Our focus was on maintaining services for the people we serve, and doing so in the safest way possible.

At that time, we worked tirelessly to secure Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for staff and individuals in our care. Policies were developed to keep people safe. The pay was adjusted for staff working in homes with individuals who had tested positive for COVID. In December 2020 the first COVID vaccinations were available for essential workers and individuals with disabilities. Benchmark, along with its pharmacy partners, hosted vaccine clinics for employees and individuals served. A company-wide campaign was launched to encourage everyone to get vaccinated.

Before the onset of the pandemic, we were experiencing staffing shortages, especially in frontline positions. COVID kicked it up a few notches and we saw an unprecedented level of staff vacancies. Despite those vacancies, the staff in place ensured individuals served continued to receive the care and support they needed. It was a very stressful time and many staff sacrificed their own needs so individuals remained healthy and safe. There are not enough ways to say “thank you,” but Thank You!

Throughout the pandemic, we learned to adapt. To help reduce exposure and keep people safe, we adopted new ways of doing business such as virtual meetings, the use of telehealth, and working remotely when appropriate. Over the last 6 months, as COVID has begun to stabilize and treatments and vaccine boosters have been made widely available, the virus has become more manageable and leadership teams have discussed how we return to “normal.” What does the new “normal” look like? Some strategies implemented along the way will surely continue, as they have shown efficiencies and even improvements in service delivery.

First and foremost, we need to help individuals served to connect with their friends and family, communities, and the workforce. How do we engage post-COVID? Engagement will forever be different now as we learned how to engage virtually. How can we shape future engagement to the benefit of everyone? Our mindset needs to pivot towards offering a spectrum of participation. Utilize what we learned during COVID to include the most number of people. For example, when planning a Fall-themed party offer it in a space where all can attend barrier-free such as a church or community center. Invite different groups of people to attend; not just the individuals we serve. If you have a costume contest and trunk or treat, offer a remote option for individuals who can’t get out to view and vote on the costumes, or distribute treats for virtual participants.

For managers, we need to intentionally reconnect with our teams. Examples are simple but impactful: gathering in person no matter how big or small the team is; showing up at the homes or worksites; discussing paths towards growth or promotion; recognizing staff so they know you see them; offering training beyond PowerPoint presentations, and creating shared goals to rally around.

To move the needle on this new normal, we need to change the routines we have become so accustomed to over the last several years. Experts say it takes, on average, 2-3 months to break a habit. We are in the habit of doing things “the COVID way,” and while COVID is not yet eradicated, there are plenty of safety measures in place to warrant a return to inclusion and integration for individuals served and those caring for them. Let’s seek that change together!

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” – Barack Obama

Benchmark Forms Partnership with StationMD to Serve Individuals with Complex Medical and Behavioral Health Needs

Benchmark and StationMD have created a partnership to establish an integrated care approach to support individuals with co-occurring intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and complex medical and behavioral health needs. This model aims to keep high-risk/high-cost populations out of emergency departments, hospitals, institutions, and crisis situations while decreasing costs, improving physical and behavioral health outcomes, and addressing social determinants of health.

Since 2016, StationMD has been recognized across the country as a leader in delivering health care to individuals with IDD who have complex medical conditions requiring immediate attention from a doctor. This population often struggles with access to transportation, caregiver availability, and finding doctors who understand their medical nuances, resulting in high rates of emergency department utilization and hospitalization and incurring significant costs. StationMD expands access to high-quality medical and behavioral healthcare to these individuals by offering 24/7, on-demand virtual consultations with board-certified doctors who are specialized in treating people with IDD through a simple-to-use telemedicine application.

Building upon the organization’s extensive expertise as a direct service provider for individuals with co-occurring IDD and complex medical and behavioral health needs, Benchmark has developed a customizable solution – the Building Provider Capacity (BPC) model – to meet the needs of this population. In BPC, professional and clinical staff provide wraparound support, targeted consultation, technical assistance, and training to providers to enhance their performance in serving individuals with complex needs.

StationMD will collaborate with Benchmark to add a critical component to the BPC model psychiatric and medical care via telehealth, 24/7/365. This collaboration establishes an innovative home- and community-based care model to address IDD and behavioral health systems gaps, reduce the total cost of care, and improve outcomes for individuals served, fostering greater independence and quality of life.

“Benchmark has utilized StationMD in several states and has been thrilled by their skills and the impact it has had on the lived experiences of individuals served and their staff,” said Doug Beebe, Benchmark CEO. “This partnership creates an integrated care approach for people who are often disenfranchised and excluded from ready access to high-quality primary care and psychiatric support.”

“Through our partnership with Benchmark Human Services, we are launching a truly innovative model of whole-person care, creating a network of partners that deliver long-term support expertise AND quality medical and behavioral care. This solution will remove barriers to healthcare and address critical social determinants of health for the individual with IDD, and for their ecosystem of caregivers and professional support staff,” said Dr. Maulik Trivedi, cofounder and chief strategy officer of StationMD. “Both Benchmark and StationMD share a common mission of fostering independence, community integration, and improving the quality of life for the individuals we serve so they can function at their maximum potential.”


Below is a list of employees who were promoted in October, November, and December and the position to which they were promoted. Congratulations to all!


Melanie Bald, Crisis Director

Kimberly Browder-Jaggers, Team Leader
Alexandria Luse, House Manager
Braden Ray, Team Leader
David Ross, Chief Operating Officer
Courtney Heiser, Chief Culture Officer
Shannon O’Connell, Senior Executive Assistant
Kendra Kolkman, Activities Coordinator
Deanna Keller, Program Coordinator
Jasmine White Bhagor, Activities Coordinator
Jamie Williams, Program Coordinator
Ernest Haynes, Residential Manager
Genell Soulier, Supported Living Manager
Regina Bailey, Supported Living Supervisor
Nancy Johnson, Program Coordinator
Nikita Lindsey, Residential Manager
Syniya Bibbs, Residential Manager

Vanecia Harris, RBT
Kendria Jones, RBT
Yolanda Heath, CNA
Kimberly Alexander, CNA
Kelle Mastroberardino, Peer Specialist

Andrew Wall, Behavior Specialist

Virginia Cole, Board Certified Behavior Analyst

New Jersey
Tricia Innis, Residential Manager
Alexia Opromollo, Team Leader
Waidia Riddle, RN

Amy Harner, Team Leader
Rebecca Davidson, LPN


Thrive honors employee hire anniversaries for January, February, and March, celebrating those who have worked at Benchmark for five years and longer.


Amy Clure – 5
Angela Smith – 5
Ayesha Thomas – 5
Barbara Walden – 5
Benjamin Morgan – 5
Bernard Onyango – 5
Brookelynn Kiester – 5
Charlotte Ellis – 5
Chinyere Okebe – 5
Ghislian Tasong – 5
Hellen Waruingi – 5
Jaden Gordon – 5
Jared Bess – 5
Jeannie Anderson-Rapp – 5
Jennifer Imlay – 5
Kara Emery – 5
Katherine Keel – 5
Kendra Butler – 5
Kristina Fought – 5
Laura Christiaens – 5
Lauren Lloyd – 5
Lynell Ellis – 5
Mackenzie Erlenbusch – 5
Mamie Seigle – 5
Maria Nnachi – 5
Nadine Sims – 5
Nazaire Nicolas – 5
Patience Stewart – 5
Penny Fawbush – 5
Peter Jachimiak – 5
Rose Filteau – 5
Sandra Hockaday – 5
Sharon Hamblin – 5
Stella Carlson – 5
Suzy Morris – 5
Tanya Moreno – 5
Vicky Bollinger – 5
April Evans – 6
Balinda Fonner – 6
Cynthia Luginbihl – 6
Damilola Lawal Bankole – 6
Darla Downey – 6
Deirdra Sago – 6
Donald Oshiomah – 6
Donelle Malveaux – 6
Dorianne Schmidt – 6
Geoffrey Avery – 6
Jaclyn Williams – 6
Jacqueline Hightower – 6
Jamaal Sanders – 6
Jamal Green – 6
Jane Schriefer – 6
Jason Bryden – 6
Jeff Miller – 6
Jeffrey Frady – 6
Kaia Zelt – 6
Kathryn Wilkinson – 6
Kelli Saine – 6
Kezia Jackson – 6
Marcey Taylor – 6
Ryan Haley – 6
Sean McCaulay – 6
Shawnlisa Nevels – 6
Sheila Canada – 6
Taneka Borders – 6
Taylor Berg – 6
Theresa Fisher – 6
Tracee Smith – 6
Tracy Gregory – 6
Afolabi Ogunbowale – 7
Alandra McGhee – 7
Angela White – 7
Brandon Riley – 7
Cheryl Bilbrey – 7
Christa Raines – 7
Craig Whonsetler – 7
Deborah Welby – 7
Dimitris Katsaounis – 7

Glen Henderson – 7
Jacqueline Shuppert – 7
James Bain – 7
Janel Woodford – 7
Kevie Thomas – 7
Lakeshia Horne – 7
Latonya Elliott – 7
Loretta Taylor – 7
Lorry Augustin – 7
Maria Hainline – 7
Michaela Jan Carpenter – 7
Motunrayo Owolabi – 7
Nicole Jimenez – 7
Paulette Patrick – 7
Reeta Masih – 7
Shaina Baldwin – 7
Sharday Mabins – 7
Tanisha Colon – 7
Theresa Shillingford Stovall – 7
Tommy Brown – 7
Traveon Stevenson – 7
Tyree McCreight – 7
Adriana Garcia – 8
Ami Clancy – 8
Andrew Harris – 8
Barbara Lane – 8
Christine Sellers – 8
Claudia Jackson – 8
Deandra Burnett – 8
Dymond Davis – 8
Elizabeth DeMarquez – 8
Elizabeth Hohman – 8
Heather Macbeth – 8
Irene Omboga – 8
John Miller – 8
Karen Bischoff – 8
Kelly Foster – 8
Lacesha Jeffers – 8
Linda Powers – 8
Maureen Zink – 8
Pamela Parker – 8
Rachael Nelson – 8
Rebecca Mays – 8
Sharon Wilkins – 8
Steven Bright – 8
Tatiana Johnson – 8
Tedwick Theodore – 8
April Clerkley – 9
Christina Briggs – 9
Darryl Harmon – 9
David Herrmann Sedano – 9
Deaundra Lewis – 9
Dennis Stroup – 9
Douglas Beebe – 9
Jackulynn Hightire – 9
Jamal Cooper – 9
Jason Crowder – 9
Jeremy Joyner – 9
Jerry Mote – 9
Lateachca Carswell – 9
Peter Bishop – 9
Rose Ochoa – 9
Shaunna Turner – 9
Stacie Fitzgerald – 9
William Exner – 9
Yvonne Kreigh – 9
Cawanna Wadley – 10
Claudia Springer – 10
Dawn Stump – 10
Edward Mowen – 10
Herbert Sheftal – 10
Jonathan Rushton – 10
Joseph Gootee – 10
Kathleen Manegre – 10
Keith Miller – 10
Laurie Heckman – 10
Melissa Shaw – 10
Michael Dow – 10

Modester Nnona – 10
Mohamed Koroma – 10
Nikki Cotterman – 10
Ragna Urberg – 10
Renee Broughton – 10
Ruth Chege – 10
Shaun Jasper – 10
Tondaleah Eversole – 10
Belinda Christensen – 11
Calma Harris – 11
Dedria Handerson – 11
Erika Moore – 11
Frances Cline – 11
Jeremy Wimbley – 11
Karen Evans – 11
Katherine Zmeskal – 11
Kimberly Leal – 11
Latasha Green – 11
Lori Blanco – 11
Orlando Wash – 11
Rosita Stewart – 11
Ruth Bates – 11
Sycilla Smith – 11
Tammy Carroll – 11
Alocia Robertson – 12
Angela Jeffrey – 12
Anthony Bryant – 12
Benjamin Harrison – 12
Debra Williams – 12
Dorothy Robbins – 12
Julie Heiges – 12
Rasheda Patterson – 12
Susan Brown – 12
Timothy Fitzgibbons – 12
Andrew Baden – 13
Casey Lolmaugh – 13
Douglas Houser – 13
Jeffrey Cross – 13
Laine Muston – 13
Stacy Christopher – 13
Ann Williams – 14
Harold Eagleson – 14
Kristy Stemen – 14
Lucy Ngwenya – 14
Shirley Morgan – 14
Souleymane Adamou – 14
Theresa Prentice – 14
Jill Tatalovich – 15
Rhonda McAuley – 15
Rosalind McCall – 15
Shawn Fields – 15
Isiah Harris – 16
Jennifer Smith – 16
Justin Tucker – 16
Kim Stephens – 16
Linda Riecke – 16
Theophilus Kungang – 16
Tyaan Winn – 16
Yared Belew – 16
Kathy Thorson – 17
Kimberly Larson – 17
Nathan Heimann – 17
Barbara Grote – 18
George Sewell – 18
Julius Kerkula – 18
Clara Chibweya – 19
Sherri Morris – 19
Courtney Heiser – 20
Jean Kambela – 20
Kelly Stahl – 20
Timothy Cline – 20
Deborah Hanan – 21
Gary Brabson – 24
Joyce Wright – 24
Paula Elward – 27
Todd Staszak – 27
Curlie Young – 33

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