Intermountain CEO David Giles said the agency strongly supports efforts to care for people in their communities, so they have a network of support. Above, he is with staff members Laurita Nez, Karen Young, Angelica Gonzales and Suze Cucci. The organization is holding a major fundraiser gala on April 18.

In the past 40 years, David Giles has come to believe that politics has no place in providing care for those with behavioral health disorders and special needs.

"We often talk about liberal and conservative values, and it transcends any of that. I think it is a community value," said Giles, the founder and chief executive officer of Intermountain Centers for Human Development. "People talk about economics, and if you could economically change behavior so a person is a functional part of the community and from a humanitarian point of view, give the person a life where they have more options and are accepted as members of the community, then you have done a great service for that person and collectively for society."

Since 1973, Intermountain has evolved from a small agency on Mount Lemmon that served Native American youth with challenging behaviors.

It has become a nonprofit organization that provides a continuum of home-based and out-of-home support for emotionally and behaviorally challenged children, adults with a diagnosis of serious mental illness and individuals with developmental disabilities.

It serves more than 3,000 clients annually in Pima and Yavapai counties through various programs, including group homes for adults and children; apartment compounds where staff provide daily support for clients; and therapeutic foster homes that offer individualized environments.

The organization also continues its tradition of working with Native Americans, providing services through every village in the Tohono O'odham Nation.

Additionally, a new project, the Intermountain Academy, serves Tucson children in kindergarten through grade 12 with specialized academic and behavioral needs, including autism spectrum disorder.

The academy is seeking a permanent central location, and enrollment is eventually expected to reach 100.

Giles said that since its inception, Intermountain Centers has been an innovator in behavioral health with an emphasis that focuses on each client's individual strengths and attempts to keep clients as close to home as possible to utilize community support.

Additionally, it has gained a reputation for working with the most challenging individuals and imparting academic skills, vocational training, self-care and acceptable social behaviors.

"We want clients to understand what it means to be a member of community and to know there are places - schools, parks, libraries, public areas - where it is a privilege to be and to alter their behavior appropriately in these places," Giles said.

"Back in the 1970s, many people were sent off in institutions. We believe strongly in caring for people right in their communities so they maintain contact with friends and build a network of support," Giles said.

Promoting public awareness about Intermountain is increasingly important to that network of support, according to Giles.

He said fundraising allows the organization to maintain quality programming since a greater portion of funds that once supported care must now be funneled into providing electronic medical records and meeting regulatory standards.

To help offset such costs, the organization has various fundraising drives throughout the year and will host its first large fundraiser, the 40th Anniversary Gala Celebration for Intermountain Centers for Human Development, on April 18.

"It would be helpful to us if we could raise anywhere from $20,000 to $60,000 in this first go-round of fundraising," he said.

Giles embraces the philosophy that "it takes a village" not only to raise a child, but to help those with special needs become productive members of society.

"It is important that we educate and promote independence and that all people contribute to the whole," Giles said.

If You Go

40th Anniversary Gala Celebration for Intermountain Centers for Human Development.

• When: 6 p.m. April 18

• Where: Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa, 3800 E. Sunrise Drive.

• Cost: $150 per person.

Festivities include no-host cocktails; dinner; a celebratory program; a silent auction featuring golf packages, gift certificates to local restaurants and salons, Southwestern art and 1970s memorabilia; and a live auction featuring vacations packages as well as two tickets of the buyer's choice to the Bruce Springsteen Wrecking Ball World Tour abroad. Business attire or 1970s attire encouraged. For more information or to make an online donation, visit the website at or call 721-1887, Ext. 5239.

Contact freelance writer Loni Nannini at