Ten Questions with Barbara Scott

bios_scottTell me a little about yourself – your background and your education.

I received my Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Anderson College, an MSW from IUPUI in 1987, and an MBA from Anderson University in 2002.

How long have you worked for Aspire? 

I was first employed as a part-time Van Driver while I was attending IUPUI.  After graduating, I was hired as an Outpatient Therapist in the Elwood office.  I have worked full time at Aspire since 1987 (27 years this May).

What positions have you held with Aspire?

I have had 7 different positions:  van driver, OP Therapist, Inpatient Therapist, Inpatient Supervisor, CSP Manager, CSS Director, COO.

Describe your current position, including your responsibilities?

As COO, I attempt to influence many different activities.  Together with the other executives, I hope to shape the vision of the organization.  However, my main daily role is to provide leadership and support to the Senior Directors.  Some of these Senior Directors oversee direct clinical services:  Sr. Director of Outpatient, Sr. Director of Rehabilitation, and Sr. Director of Youth and Family Community Services.  Some of the Sr. Directors are in administrative departments:  Sr. Direct of Human Resources, Sr. Director of Quality Improvement.  I also work directly with the Director of Deaf Services.

What does a typical day as Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer look like?

Meetings, meetings, and more meetings.  I had my niece one time shadow me for a day when she was in high school and contemplating different career options.  Needless to say, she said I had the most boring job ever!  She actually fell asleep on my office floor she was so bored.  Now that does not mean my job is boring!  It does mean, however, that I am pretty far from the front line of what we do here at Aspire.  The multitude of things I deal with every day amazes me.  A typical day could include onboarding a new staff through orientation, responding to a consumer complaint, interpreting policy, strategic planning, participating in a process improvement initiative, responding to an audit, attending a committee, answering a question from a Senior Director, problem-solving a complex situation, attending a phone conference with the state, conducting a supervision session with my staff, completing a report for the Board of Directors, blah, blah, blah…you get the picture.  (My niece, by the way, is in nursing school—no wonder management bored her!)

What in your educational background and work experience prepared you for your current position?

As the agency has evolved over the years, so has my role as COO.  When I first became COO, we were a small agency of around a hundred staff.  Many of the administrative functions I actually did myself with administrative assistants.  Recruiting and hiring staff, business development, and quality improvement were some of the functions I fulfilled.  Now we have whole departments that do these things; and, I might add, they do them so much better than I did!  However, my direct experience in doing clinical work, managing a program, and fulfilling various administrative functions has given me perspective and experience for the role of COO.  So, I have been a provider, a facilitator, and now an influencer.  I’m big on wanting a one word job description, so even though I’ve had seven different positions with the agency, I’ve only had three different job descriptions.

That said, I maintain the belief that the direct service staff have the most important jobs at our agency.  The rest of us are in a position to support the ‘first responders.’

If you weren’t working in this field, what would you be doing?

I think I would have made a great defense attorney.  I don’t think it would have been nearly as fulfilling, however.

What is it that drew you to the field of mental health?

I didn’t necessarily plan a career path in social work, but came to learn later in life how I was unknowingly influenced by her parents’ experiences.  Victims of child abuse and molestation, and the children of parents with mental illness and addiction, my parents worked quietly to end the cycle of abuse with their own children.  I believe their examples guided my personal mission.

I’m a social worker because that’s what my parents were innately. I am indebted that they chose to give me a social work heritage rather than one filled with the very atrocities it attempts to stamp out.

What impact do you feel your work has had on Aspire and its clients?

Gosh, this is too hard for me to answer.  I’d rather the interviewer ask staff and clients themselves what impact I have had on them.

Here is what some of Barb’s coworkers had to say about her:

Trusa Grosso, Senior Director of Outpatient Services: “Barb Scott has bettered the lives of Aspire clients through her innovative approaches to treatment.  She has championed the Recovery movement in our organization, driving programs such as Harvestland Farm, and supporting the formation of an active and engaged Consumer Advisory Council.  Barb looks at issues from the lens of those we serve and tirelessly searches for ways in which we can provide better service.   Barb is so committed to improving services, she made it her own personal goal to become fluent in ASL to better understand and address the needs of our deaf clients and staff.”

Jim Skeel, Senior Director of Performance & Outcomes: “She has been the champion for Aspire’s transition from a traditional ‘medical model’ of care to a recovery-oriented system.  She has encouraged and assisted all programs and administrative functions to include the consumers of our services in the decision-making of how our care is delivered, and how our organization conducts administrative business.  Everything we are doing to promote recovery and consumer involvement is a testament to her leadership.”

What things do you do to help you cope with the demands of your job?

Most people know that I live on a farm.  It was a dream of mine as a child, to either live on a huge horse farm in Kentucky or a log cabin in the Rocky Mountains.  Being from Michigan, I have no idea where I got that dream.  I’m lucky….my 2 dreams were realized when 20 years ago, as a single woman, I bought a log house on a little piece of acreage on a hill in Indiana.  A few horses later and my dream was realized.  I still live there, now with my husband, and chickens and goats and donkeys and ducks!  Silence and outdoors renew my soul.

Barbara Scott is the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Aspire Indiana. While the beliefs and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of Barbara Scott, you can learn more about community mental health on Aspire’s Facebook page.  You can also follow Aspire Indiana on Twitter @AspireIndiana.

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