An Interview with the Executive Director of Intervention Associates
I sat down to speak with Lisa Pettinati, the executive director of Intervention Associates, to learn about her role and the uniqueness of Intervention Associates as a care management and guardianship service.
Etta: Hi, I’m Etta Dale Hornsteiner. Today I will be speaking with Lisa Pettinati, a social worker and a care manager at Intervention Associates in Philadelphia. Today we’ll be discussing Lisa’s work in the area of care management and what that may look like. Lisa, just to break the ice a bit, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Lisa: Thank you very much, first of all, for this interview and it’s my pleasure to talk about my work. So I started working with Intervention Associates almost four years ago and I started out as a professional care manager and then became the executive director. And so now I have the good fortune of having the perfect job where I get to be both the executive director and have a small case load of people that I get to work with.
Etta: Lisa, tell me about the people you work with.
Lisa: When people need us, it’s usually because they’re in some kind of family crisis. We work with people who are aging, people who have special needs and people who might have behavioral health issues such as a mental illness. Many times we get phone calls from our professional partners such as attorneys or estate planners who are in need of support for their clients. Also, we receive calls from people in the community who have family members who are in need of support.
We work with people who have very complex issues and who need support in staying in their homes or perhaps moving into a more supportive setting. A lot of times, we work with people who have mental health issues and have been in crisis and their families are really at the wit’s end because the system that they worked in, the public system, has not been able to manage their loved one’s needs and again, with people with special needs. A lot of times that is individuals who, for whatever reason, have birth injuries or traumatic brain injuries or something of that nature, and they need full-time care at home.
The work that we do is extremely complex in that every single case we take on is their own special case. We don’t have a cookie-cutter approach. We have a very individualized approach to working with people. We work directly with those individuals as our clients. We work with their family members. We work with their support. We work with their professional partners who established what their needs.
So the work we do, Etta, is very analytical in that on a case by case basis, we are assessing that person’s needs, looking at every different part of that person’s life, and seeing where there are holes, where there’s a need for improvement. I can give you some case examples if you’d like but essentially, our job is to go in, assess, make recommendations, and then move on to help that person have the best possible life.
Etta: It seems like it takes empathy, understanding and compassion.
Lisa: I agree with you. It takes all of those things. The people that work for Intervention Associates are really handpicked. They’re usually master’s level social workers. We also have a nurse and a behavioral specialist. But we really try to focus on the values that the person brings and their experience.
So when we’re working with very complex issues with people, it takes a lot of core intelligence and knowledge about the systems that we’re working in. We want to not just understand who the person is and what their needs are, but how do we best match those needs with what is available to them in our system. Not just social service system but whatever it takes.
For instance, a lot of times we get calls from adult children, elderly parents, and usually there has been some sort of crisis. Mom has had a fall. Maybe dad passed away a year or two ago and mom is alone in the big house and she’s had a fall. All of a sudden, the adult children of mom really understand that she can’t live alone in this house without having support in place.
So, many times what we’ll do is we’ll go in and we’ll look at the situation. We’ll look at her home, we’ll look at her finances, we’ll look at her support, we’ll look at everything that she has in her current life and then what we can do to meet her needs where she’s at. The most important thing for us is to really be compassionate and to try to understand—what is it that our clients want from their own lives.
Etta: So, what you say is that it is the ability to assess the situation, the ability to have compassion, the ability to work with other care managers with unique skills that set Intervention Associates apart from others?
Lisa: I think it’s very true. I think that when people come to Intervention Associates and when people are referred to us, we’re really known as the company that takes on the most complex cases, the most challenging situations. And even when it comes to, for instance, family interactions, a lot of times other companies may not be as prepared as we are to deal with complex family interactions, but we are and we’ve been trained to do that.
In addition to professional care management services, we also provide power of attorney services and guardianship services. In working with these different types of services, it deepens our awareness of how to work with families and with individuals to bring them together to ensure that the primary client’s needs are being met and that we are serving them in the best possible way.
This is not a simple thing to do. It’s more than just having compassion. It’s also understanding what their needs are and what are compatible services that will meet those needs. It’s almost like putting a puzzle together. In some ways, it’s like having a crystal ball. Not that we’re trained to look into the future but our services are truly meant to not just plan for today but what will that person’s life look like a year from now, five years from now, and what will their needs be. Because of course as we all age, we all have different needs. So we can kind of project into the future what those needs might be and look to set of services so that we can prevent future problems from occurring by setting up certain things now.
Etta: I recently learned that Intervention Associates partners with elder attorneys and trust officers and estate planners and geriatricians and so many different types of individuals. What does Intervention Associates do to help these business professionals?
Lisa: When we are contacted by our professional partners, usually what they’re looking for is to have eyes and ears in that client’s home. It’s not something that they can do on an ongoing basis. So, essentially, what they’re looking for in the beginning is a comprehensive assessment, go in and look at, as I said earlier, every part of that person’s life, their environment, their family, whatever support they already have in place and let the trust officers and attorneys know exactly from our perspective what is that person’s needs, what would help them going forward into the future and to have a presence in that moment.
As we’re referring to them as our professional partners, we become partners. We are partners with our professional referral sources. We become another person that they can depend on—that they can rely on.
The other thing that I want to say is that we’re not a 9 to 5 service. We are available 24 hours a day. We have on-call so that if something happens, an emergency happens, there’s always somebody that can reach out from our team to help our professional partners navigate an emergency after hours as well.
Again, one of the things that our professional partners look for in us is our assessment because many times they need a comprehensive assessment to bring to the court or to whatever situation it is where they need to provide an assessment to determine next steps for their client. So one of the things that they rely on us most for in the beginning is that comprehensive assessment and recommendation for future services.
Etta: It sounds like, to some extent, you have to keep the heart and the head separated in this field.
Lisa: Absolutely. Being social workers, we’re of course compassionate people. We’ve come into this field because we want to help people, but that being said, being a professional care manager is a highly stressful job and in order to offer our clients the most comprehensive services and intelligent services, we do have to compartmentalize our feelings from what we perceive as the needs of our clients. So we’re looking at this from a very analytical and critical – not negative – but a critical point of view that we are looking objectively at a person’s life and saying in a very clinical manner, “This is what the issue is and these are two or three things that we recommend that can help you with this issue.”