Interested in starting your own journey in health and human services but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Domenica Personti, Founder and CEO of Impact Life, located in Wilmington, DE, USA.

What’s your organization, and who are your members?

Impact Life is an innovative behavioral health organization in Delaware whose mission is to build a solid foundation of recovery through unique recovery residences, peer support, workforce development, cultural and spiritual experiences, opportunities for peer leadership, and service work projects. We create entrepreneurial opportunities for individuals who come through our program so that they can learn how to create self-sustaining streams of income for themselves. We work with employers and businesses throughout the State to create opportunities for our residents and clients.

Tell us about yourself

I have served in the State of Delaware in the behavioral health field for over twenty years in a multitude of treatment environments. From corrections to MAT programs, community-based outreach services, facilities that boast a yoga studio and spa, state-of-the-art fitness services, farm-to-table meals, and scenic surroundings. I spend most days working with individuals who are sick and suffering from the disease of addiction. At Impact Life, we do everything we can to help them obtain the tools they need to regain a lost sense of self after the damage of addiction.

I am in long-term recovery, which helps me relate to what our residents and clients are going through. I quickly fell in love with this work. The fulfillment of giving the gift back is like nothing else.

In 2005, after losing four patients to violence and overdoses in three months, I recognized that this work was starting to affect my mental well-being. I went back to school for an MBA, but before I graduated, I was offered a job designing and implementing a community-based recovery program in Wilmington. After many years working in the field in many different modalities of mental health and addiction treatment, I was well aware of the gaps in service. This began to drive my passion for creating something to address those gaps.

When I think about what keeps me whole and grounded, I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt it is a solid spiritual program, a great support circle, and a life of service. For me, that is what we have to provide people if we want them to get and stay well. After treatment, what we offer and provide them is critical.

At IMPACT Life, we have designed a program that sets clients up for success. In addition to recovery residences and vocational career services, there are wellness programs and training for basic life skills, like how to balance a checkbook, communicate with other people, and have fun while staying sober.

We focus a lot on recovery from addiction, but for me, it’s about overall wellness. My investment is looking at the whole picture: if we don’t help people get and maintain employment, get old charges pardoned and expunged, assist them in navigating social services, and simple things like knowing how to communicate effectively, the recovery eventually collapses.

The philosophies of Impact Life are supported by three consistent pillars. Connection, Compassion, and Kinship. They lead to services delivered with dignity and respect, and in turn, people are open to change. Those of us in recovery we’re constantly cranking that gift. We’re showing that we are an example of how this can work. It’s about reassurance and compassion, and empathy. You have to help people through their process; that’s how people get well. We have to work to install hope that recovery is possible, and then we have to prove it. That’s on us.

What’s your biggest accomplishment as an organization?

My biggest accomplishment as a business leader is being able to hand-select the best team to serve alongside me. By understanding what this population needs, I am able to put a team together that can address those needs. The most important thing when you are working with a population that is traumatized and underserved is the ability to establish trust. You have to allow your team to be vulnerable, and you have to support them through the difficult challenges that this field presents.

What’s one of the hardest things that come with being an organization?

The hardest thing about leadership is being responsible for the well-being of your staff and balancing that with the well-being of the people you serve as well as the business. This field is excruciatingly painful at times and will chew you up and spit you out if you aren’t careful. You have to practice self-care and self-love daily. We deal with a lot of pain and loss, and if you don’t have someone to process that with, on top of day-to-day business challenges, it can get very dark.

What are the top tips you’d give to anyone looking to start, run and grow an organization today?

  1. Make sure you have a strong, reliable, dependable working board and, or group of advisors.
  2. Prioritize the well-being of your fellow employees. Your clients and customers are best served when your employees are cared for and feel valued. Do that by practicing compassion and making sure they feel connected to the mission, vision, and values of the company.
  3. Don’t wait for the “right time”; it may never come. Create a plan, follow it to the best of your ability, and always be prepared to pivot.