After serving in the U.S. Air Force as a medic for many years, Katherine Bonincontri was recruited by the U.S. Department of Defense to work as a translator. From there, she earned an undergraduate degree and became an English teacher before returning to a health care-related role. Between 2005 and 2013, she excelled as executive director of the Anne Arundel Crisis Response System. Since 2013, Ms. Bonincontri has overseen operations at Robert A. Pascal Youth and Family Services’ Pascal Crisis Stabilization Center in Crownsville, Maryland.
Before Ms. Bonincontri went into college and joined the Air Force, her first job was as a medic, and she was training as one because she wanted to be in health care and she knew that the fastest way to work with human beings was at the back of an ambulance. As an 18-year-old, she was always drawn to working with people in some version of crisis. In addition to an undergraduate degree, Ms. Bonincontri earned a Master of Arts in clinical psychology from Troy University, as well as a Master of Arts in human relations from the University of Oklahoma, which she received in 2000.
When Ms. Bonincontri took over the Pascal Crisis Stabilization Center, she wanted to build something that did not exist that she saw was a glaring gap in service. She approached Robert A. Pascal, who was still alive at the time and a very well-known prominent figure throughout her area and Maryland; he was a Duke University graduate and all-American football player. He was a senator at one point, and he kept in contact with all his political friends and allies as he became very wealthy in the field of propane. He sold the propane business for an exponentially large sum of money than he put into it and he became a massive philanthropist. He donated auditoriums and a wing to the county’s local hospital, and Ms. Bonincontri was fortunate enough to have an occasion to meet him in her position as the county’s system response director. She told him they were missing something in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, that she wanted to build and he looked at her and said, “Quit your job; I will help you fund it.” Since then, she has never looked back.
Looking back, Ms. Bonincontri recalls one experience where a gentleman was admitted. While filling out his forms, she knew he had mental issues, but they were not informed that they had substance addiction as well. A staff member noticed that he was nodding out and, in a moment, collapsed. He was laid down on the floor and was clinically unresponsive, needing nine doses of medication and was administered CPR. The staff saved the life of this man.
As executive director, Ms. Bonincontri provides individuals with behavioral health and substance abuse disorders through innovative treatments. Through her leadership, she aims to make the Pascal Crisis Stabilization Center the foremost provider of crisis and outpatient behavioral health services in Maryland. In a career filled with highlights, she is most proud of taking the initiative to establish the crisis center; it has helped thousands of the most underserved citizens in the state. She attributes her success to psychological resiliency, wonderful good mentors and inspirational people in the United States military that she would never forget. Looking toward the future, Ms. Bonincontri intends to expand the center through additional locations. Ultimately, she aims to provide therapy services and allow employees to work remotely out of their homes.
Ms. Bonincontri was extremely passionate about providing psychiatric urgent care and crisis services. She believed that caring for other people and their psychological wellbeing/health was as vital as any physical health condition. The more we realize that taking care of each other in that way was truly vital makes for a better place for all of us; the better off civilization would be. What motivates Ms. Bonincontri are her clients because they are in need of help, seeing them come from a dark place and into the light. Her favorite part of her job is inspiring staff to do the work with her and watching someone’s life get better. She states, “Never judge a book by its cover, never judge others by their appearance either and treat everyone with respect.”