Bonnie McGuire didn’t interact with North Range Behavioral Health chief executive officer Larry Pottorff every day in the eight years she’s been coming to Frontier House, a community center in Greeley supporting individuals with mental illness.
Frontier House, a program of North Range, follows a treatment philosophy known as the Clubhouse model of psychosocial rehabilitation.
Founded in New York City in the late 1940s and internationally recognized, the Clubhouse rehabilitation concept is a non-traditional outpatient approach to managing mental health challenges. Frontier House and the Clubhouse model are based on a belief individuals can lead normal lives, interacting with family, friends and engaging with work, while getting access to support and services.
Pottorff, who is retiring as North Range CEO, brought the Clubhouse philosophy to Greeley as the founding director of Frontier House in 1990 — seven years after joining the organization. Frontier House is the oldest Clubhouse program in Colorado.
Pottorff was honored at Frontier House on Monday afternoon with the dedication of a garden in his name in front of the building at 1407 8th Ave.
“Without his direction this place wouldn’t exist,” McGuire said. “He has such a heart for the community and mental health.”
Frontier House opened its doors on April 1, 1990 in a building at 1103 5th St. near the intersection with 11th Avenue.
Pottorff was among the North Range and Frontier House leaders to speak during the short celebration. In his remarks, Pottorff gave credit to the colleagues who were also part of the founding of Frontier House as well as recognizing the approximately 1,4000 members who participate in the program.
“I’m just really grateful for how the Clubhouse has continued to grow,” Pottorff said after the ceremony. “When I left (in 1995), I was committed to it as an important part of North Range. Today, seeing how it’s grown and flourished, I’m proud of what it’s grown into.”
The new garden features an stone inscribed with Pottorff’s name surrounded by natural grasses, plants and flowers representing Frontier House’s motto as “a place to grow.”
“When others view this garden, honoring you there, may they remember the legacy of your impact on the lives in this community for years to come,” said Jennifer Euler, North Range’s Chief Human Resources Officer in her remarks.
Euler succeeded Pottorff in 1995 as the director of Frontier House.
“For me, it’s hard to describe with words,” Euler said of Pottorff after the ceremony. “It’s about his character. His lifelong compassion and service to other people.”
Others who spoke at the ceremony for Pottorff were: Frontier House Program Director Renee Schell, North Range incoming CEO Kim Collins and Frontier House members Clark Bacco and Ashlyn McMillan.
McGuire, a 33-year-old Greeley resident, said she’s been working through complex mental health issues including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. McGuire said she’s a shy person, and Frontier House has helped her increase her confidence interacting with others. McGuire said she’s been having a rough time lately; a lot of challenges but she’s working on them.
“I have the support of this place and if I didn’t, I don’t know what I’d do with my days,” McGuire.
Individuals who come to Frontier House have to have mental health diagnosis and a referral from a therapist, McGuire said.
One of the components of Frontier House, and of the Clubhouse model of treatments, is the members — they are not called clients — participate in the work at the house. This work includes food planning and preparation. McGuire said Frontier House prepares 30-35 meals a day. There are also clerical tasks to be accomplished, such as answering phones, learning about budgeting and interacting with people.
Pottorff described Frontier House and the Clubhouse model as a “safe place” where the members are needed, wanted and expected to participate. Pottorff also said the model operates based on research into its efficacy, offering improved quality of life, successful employment and decreased incidents of hospitalization and incarceration for the members.
“This is more about life, getting a job and making friendships and learning to work through interpersonal challenges in an accepting environment,” Pottorff added. “To develop confidence and know they have support in Clubhouse.”