Laura Sovine

by John Cuba Lewis
  • What does your organization do?

    Austin Recovery is a non-profit organization providing both inpatient and outpatient treatment services for individuals seeking to recover from substance use disorders.
  • How did you become interested in this work?

    Much of my direct service and subsequently administrative and policy experience has been in service of the formerly incarcerated. My passions are around second chances, sometimes third and fourth chances, and the fighting spirit of those trying to heal and recover. I am passionate about treating addiction as a public health issue rather than a criminal one, and therefore passionate about making treatment accessible and affordable to all who seek it.
  • What drives your passion?

    My excellent training in advocacy and social justice and my commitment to the social work code of ethics drives my passion for quality and compassionate leadership, excellence in service, and access to services for all who are impacted. Additionally, I have personal experience with very close friends and family who are struggled with the disease of addiction, all of whom have been incarcerated as a result because we as a nation have not decided to treat the root causes, we have only decided to react in anger and to punish. Being in relationship with someone riddled by this disease is HARD, but relationship is the only way through, and punishment simply does not work.
  • Did you have a mentor or a role model?

    I have several! But, the first two that come to mind are Dr. Darlene Grant and Dr. David Springer. Both were professors of mine in the MSSW program at UT over 15 years ago. Dr. Grant taught Social Justice, and Women in Addiction, among other classes; I took every class she taught. She opened my eyes to issues of privilege, class, race, and all the wonderful complexities of being truly in relationship with those who are different than you, seeing the world through a different lens, etc. Dr. Springer has always been a wealth of knowledge on clinical issues in substance abuse and criminal justice, but as his career evolved and mine did too, he became my go to on fundraising and teaching and leadership and putting your social work ethics at the front of all of it.
  • What's the biggest challenge in your work?

    Specifically at Austin Recovery, our biggest challenge is our hybrid funding model. We strive to be the highest quality, yet most affordable care in Central Texas, so we have self funded clients, insurance clients, and grant funded clients. The diversification makes us fiscally strong, but the management of the various contracts can be a challenge. Having all of those clients in treatment together at the ranch makes for interesting cultural experiences and dialogue, and can come with its own challenges, but we wouldn’t have it any other way! In general, I think substance use disorders are one of the toughest things to treat, so there is always the stress and challenge at the front line of our agency that we work against every day.
  • What's the best advice that you have ever received?

    From a former boss of mine, Cynthia Berg, “Your best is going to be good enough.”
  • What are your top tips for new Executive Directors?

    1. Spend time one on one with your clients and your staff; they know more than you know about the mission and the work as it is today.
    2. Hire slowly, fire quickly.
    3. Self care is not a cliché, it’s an ethical obligation. Your burn out will impact your team. They will model your boundaries and the way you find balance in a field where balance is constantly sought after.