We first introduce you to Trish Smith, CEO of Springwell and share a bit about how Trish has turned opportunities into career building experiences and why she hopes you will stop by in person or virtually to say hello to her.
How long have you been working in human services/how did you get into the field?
My work in human services began by chance and grew as I decided to take advantage of opportunities that were presented to me. When I graduated from college with a degree in sociology and education, there were no teaching positions available due to supply exceeding demand. Instead, I accepted a job as an assistant to an education professor and in that role had the opportunity to take graduate courses. After taking some courses in counseling, I decided to transfer and enrolled in a full-time program where I obtained my master’s degree in counseling and human services. My internships consisted of working with sexual assault and domestic violence survivors of all ages, as well as individuals with disabilities in a supportive employment program. These experiences provided me with a solid foundation to begin my career in the ASAP network.
Having grown up and attended college in upstate New York, I was ready for a change after graduate school and decided to move to Boston with my best friend. I immediately got a job as a Protective Services worker at an ASAP and began learning about the vast array of services available to older adults in Massachusetts. I spent 8 years working in the Protective Services program as a PSW, PSS and finally Regional Coordinator. When the state changed its structure and eliminated the Regional Coordinator position, I decided to move back to New York to be closer to my family including my aging grandparents. I took a position as a contractor for New York State Department of Health working on the development of a new Medicaid waiver that would allow older adults and individuals with disabilities to receive services in the community instead of a nursing facility. Ironically, while in New York, I met my now husband who lived in Massachusetts. In 2010, I moved back to Massachusetts and joined Springwell as the first full time Quality Manager. That role led me to becoming COO at Springwell in 2013 and CEO in 2019.
What originally interested you in this work?
I really enjoyed my internships working with sexual assault and domestic violence survivors, and knew it was important to me to help individuals who are in difficult situations. While I joined the ASAP network because of the Protective Services Program, it was in that first position where I learned about all the services available to assist older adults. I was impressed with how Massachusetts is different from other states in that it is dedicated to prioritizing the needs of older adults and became enthusiastic about furthering my career in the ASAP network.
What do you see as the most important elements of your role?
As CEO, I have a diverse set of responsibilities making sure we meet standards, are following various regulations and that we always work in an ethical manner for the well-being of older adults. While these are clearly vital, it is equally important that I make sure that staff have the resources and tools they need to do their job of supporting our consumers.
What is your favorite part of the job?
I absolutely love to see people grow, learn, and develop in their careers. It makes me so happy to see staff thrive as they take on new roles and challenges.
What is one piece of advice you would share with someone who is facing challenges of aging?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions! We are all aging, and we don’t know what it is going to be like as we move through the stages of growing older. The aging process is different for everyone, and everyone has unique needs. One 75-year-old may have very different needs from another 75-year-old. I always encourage people to ask questions and learn about resources before they are needed. It is always more difficult if you wait until there is a crisis before making a plan or having important conversations about care.
What are you most excited about regarding the merger?
I am excited to be able to offer more programs to more people in twenty-two communities because we have more resources available. We have a wider area to recruit volunteers and to provide volunteers to help older adults. We now have an LGBTQIA+ Initiative Coordinator as a resource. We have already achieved some economies of scale at the executive level which allows us to look at how to use those resources in a different manner. Further, with more staff we will have the flexibility to respond to opportunities that come up as well as lessen the impact on others when a vacancy exists.
What is most challenging for you about the merger and how will you address the challenge?
With the growth from the merger and the ongoing safety challenges of COVID, I don’t know many staff members as well as I would like to. While we benefit from more resources with the merger, the growth in size makes it harder to connect with individuals. Part of the way I hope to address this challenge is by meeting with small groups and teams to get to know them and hear what they need. It is important to me that even with the growth, we maintain that personal touch of a small organization.
What is one thing you enjoy doing when you aren’t working?
I love to travel and explore new places. While COVID has slowed down my travel, my goal is to visit all 50 states. I equally love cities and rural exploring. My travels have included some significant road trips including one to Montana with my brother. The last big trip I took pre-COVID started in Kansas City, Missouri and was followed by a week traveling through Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas. While most people I spoke with couldn’t understand why I wanted to spend my vacation in the Midwest, it was a fantastic experience where I met wonderful people and saw some really beautiful parts of our country.
For those at Springwell/BayPath who don’t know you, what is one thing you would like them to know about you?
It is very important to me to know all my colleagues in the organization. I have an open-door policy and truly welcome people to stop by and see me whether it is just to say hello or ask a question that is on your mind. If my door is open, I welcome you to pop in and if my door is closed because I am in a meeting, please call or email so we can connect.