This month, Ben Kaneaiakala, the recently appointed Director of Operations – West Coast at Sovereign Health Group, joined us to discuss his background and his excitement about his new role.
What is your background, including your education and work experience?
I started off in the field 25 years ago when I went into treatment for my drug and alcohol addiction. I have been sober 25 years this past January. The owner of the program I was in opened up a residential drug treatment for men and women in Hawaii, and I started working as a house manager and support staff, driving patients to meetings and other places. I then became a counselor. From that facility, I moved to an adolescent treatment center as a counselor, and by year three of my career I was working for the Department of Public Safety in Hawaii for a program called KASHBOX, which helped inmates. I stayed with KATCHBOX for the next 12 years.
I went back to school in 2000 to get my bachelor’s degree in management, and then I went for my MBA. I am currently writing my dissertation for a doctorate in management. After I left KASHBOX, I worked at various other venues of treatment in Hawaii, including both outpatient and residential programs. In 2011 I moved to California and worked at a treatment center in Corona del Mar. I joined Sovereign Health in October of 2012 as the Director of Operations. I then became the Director of Special Projects, and I recently became the Director of Operations – West Coast.
What does your position at Sovereign Health entail?
My position as the Director of Operations – West Coast involves several different areas of responsibility. I provide oversight for all expansion, which includes starting up the new projects, as well as helping to coordinate and manage the new sites, providing oversight and supervision. I also hire key management staff for each of the locations and provide support for getting the facilities opened, licensed and operational. I work closely with the leadership team, and I supervise the management for all the facilities.
What inspired you to pursue a career in the field of behavioral heath?
My main inspiration for a career in the behavioral health field is my personal experience in recovery. I have realized that my passion is helping others suffering from addiction and mental health. After working as a counselor, case manager, and clinical supervisor, after about 10 years I decided I wanted to move into the management side, so I went back to school. I started working in supervisory management type positions after that to integrate my clinical and practical experience with my business education.
What I really enjoy is creating structure for the programs that allows me to support the people on the ground who help patients directly. I have been there, and I know how hard it is to do those jobs, especially without support. I want to build systems and processes to help support the program, workers, and staff, which ultimately helps the patients.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your career?
My most rewarding time in my career so far was working in the prison system in Hawaii. I worked with convicted felons and had opportunities to witness their successes after they left. I really enjoyed that time as a clinician. On the management side of my career, Sovereign Health has been a really big opportunity and a great experience.
It is currently a new and exciting time for me because of the company’s growth. I have a totally different vision and goals for my role as Director of Operations – West Coast than when I was previously Director of Operations. Some of my responsibility will be the same, but I will also have new and different challenges. I have grown and changed, and so has Sovereign Health. I want to learn as much as I can, so that I can do the best job I can do to support Sovereign’s ultimate vision. I want to be one of the key people to help make that vision a reality.
What do you see as your biggest challenge?
For me, the biggest challenge I have is a good challenge. I have a new role, which is a combination of my previous roles as the Director of Operations and Director of Special Projects. I see this new journey as a good challenge.
What brought you to Sovereign Health?
I initially came to Sovereign Health because I was looking for a new, exciting and challenging opportunity in my career, and it seemed like a great place to find that. I have really enjoyed my time so far at Sovereign, and I look forward to working at Sovereign in my new position.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I just want people to know that I have been there, and I understand how hard it is to overcome the problems that so many people face. I was a drug addict and an alcoholic. I came from an abusive home, where alcohol and drugs were abused, and verbal, physical and sexual abuse was prevalent.
I know what it is like to suffer from addiction and live in that type of lifestyle. The fact I have been able to maintain sobriety for 25 years and grow in a career in this field of helping people is probably the thing I am most proud of. I am proud of my journey and where I am today, and I hope to be able to help others find ways to overcome their problems and find success in their lives.