When Christian Pantoja was offered the opportunity to come on board with 449 Recovery as its Utilization Review and Quality Assurance Manager, he knew instantly it was something he wanted to say yes to. As someone who had recently completed substance abuse treatment, he could relate to and appreciate the support of those around him, and understood the importance of being in the right environment. “When I was in treatment I had a great group of people surrounding me that loved me when I didn’t love myself. When I finished, I knew I wanted to work in treatment, but I didn’t know what precisely I wanted to do within the industry.” Christian was fortunate to receive an offer from 449 Recovery with less than a year of sobriety under his belt, and quickly realized that learning insurance Utilization Review and Medical Necessity would be challenging, but also knew he would have support along the way. Shares Christian, “My sponsor Andrew and my good friend Vito brought me in to 449 to begin reviewing clinical documentation and overseeing the UR department. I have been here ever since and I absolutely love it.”
One of the reasons Christian enjoys his work so much stems from being in a position to help others who are suffering, and contributing to their overall health and wellbeing. “I genuinely enjoy being at work and advocating on behalf of our clients, to ensure they get as much time as possible here with us at 449 so that they can hopefully have a life full of happiness and serenity like I have found.” Christian attended Irvine Valley College, where he attained a certificate in paralegal studies, and is quick to admit his coursework isn’t closely related to Utilization Review. He continues, “There really isn’t a degree or even a certificate for Utilization Review. It’s one of those positions that you just have to get a foothold on and stay with it. I was in the right place at the right time and took the opportunity and never let go.” To stay up with current trends in his field he enjoys reading constantly, along with networking with other utilization review specialists in the industry. In addition, he also performs volunteer work with newcomers in the Alcoholics Anonymous program.
As one might expect, working day-to-day in Utilization Review can have its challenges, and in Christian’s role at 449 Recovery this is no exception. “The most demanding part of my job is keeping up to date on the ever changing standards of what various insurance companies consider medical necessity. Insurance companies like to keep us on our toes and make things challenging for us. I accept that challenge with open arms.” He also accepts, happily, the rewarding aspects as well, saying, “Being able to work with like-minded individuals really helps. I enjoy, with help from co-workers, advocating on behalf of our clientele to get the necessary authorized time from insurance companies so they can obtain the treatment they need. The best part of this job is being able to see someone transform their lives through the services we render here at 449 Recovery. There is nothing more satisfying.”
Christian is quick to point out that much of his appreciation for what he does involves around the culture and environment at 449 Recovery. This includes, in a big way, the team he interfaces and collaborates with. “Working at 449 recovery means I am a part of an extended family. It means that I am a part of something bigger than myself. I truly believe we are the absolute best at what we do, and it is because of our good motives. We have staff here that are loving and compassionate, and we all leave our ego at the door before coming into work.”
A native of Orange County and a resident of San Clemente, Christian works out of the Mission Viejo office, and relishes the short drive home to one of the best beachside communities in the state. Single, and with a “wonderful girlfriend who’s the highlight of my life”, he enjoys early mornings (4:30 am is the norm), peppered with weightlifting sessions, running, or boxing. He also enjoys reading, evening meditation, spending time with his girlfriend, and attending church services on Sunday mornings.
When asked how working at 449 Recovery has impacted his thinking about addiction, he says it’s about gaining the proper perspective. “Working at 449 Recovery has changed my way of thinking about addiction by being able to put myself in the shoes of a newcomer. I am constantly reminded of what I DO NOT want to go back through. It has also shown me that addiction comes in all aesthetic appearances, colors, sizes, and demographics.” In the end, Christian exudes positivity, sharing, “I am obsessed with becoming a better human being, in all facets of my life. I wake up with a goal everyday of going to bed at night a better person than when I woke up. I am very goal oriented and I like to encourage and inspire others to do the same.”
449 Recovery is proud to have Christian Pantoja as its Utilization Review and Quality Assurance Manager, and appreciates his positive contributions as he assists in the overall growth of the company and its impact on the lives of its clients.