By Alison Knopf
There have been significant changes at Acadia Healthcare Company, which operates many opioid treatment programs (OTPs) among its 600 facilities. Last December, amid reports that the Nashville, Tennessee-based publicly traded company was possibly for sale, Joey Jacobs was fired as CEO and chairman of the board, replaced by Debbie Osteen, formerly with Universal Health Services. This is all very high-level wheeling and dealing, so what does it have to do with treatment in Acadia facilities?
To what extent do such high-level moves affect patients? For an answer to this question, we went to Jerry Rhodes, who was CEO of CRC Health Group when Acadia acquired it in 2014, and is no stranger to such changes.
The basic answer is: patients should not be affected at all. “To a large degree, patients are identifying with the facility at which they’re receiving treatment,” Mr. Rhodes told AT Forum. “A leadership change shouldn’t have any impact on a patient at all.”
Continuity of treatment is assured by the “quality of the program and the clinical abilities of the team,” said Mr. Rhodes. “Those traits are only indirectly attributable to the leadership changes of a company.”
There is a “ripple effect” on patients and staff, when headlines appear–which generally focus on the geographic area in which corporate is headquartered (in Acadia’s case, Nashville, Tennessee). But outside of Nashville there are few programs throughout the United States that have the Acadia brand. “From my perspective–and I’ve gone through this many, many times–if it’s a good quality program, which delivers good care and is well-managed, the impact at the facility will be negligible,” said Mr. Rhodes.
Transparency Is Key
There is one circumstance that worries patients and staff, and rightly so. It’s if a program is not performing and rumors abound that it may be shut down. “You have to be very direct and transparent about the intentions of a company,” said Mr. Rhodes. Otherwise, fear alone could adversely affect care. It’s up to corporate to be transparent with facilities, and up to facilities to be transparent with patients and staff.
In fact, Acadia issued a press release about the changes, when they took place (http://www.acadiahealthcare.com/investors), with the main audience being investors.
Importantly, in the OTP world, the main growth has been in the proprietary sector. This means a lot of mergers and acquisitions, and people are used to it. “Whether it’s being bought as a company or as a facility, this has been a facet of the business for a long time,” said Mr. Rhodes.
And it’s doesn’t really matter whether the investor is private equity, venture capital, or a hedge fund, he said. “The expectations are pretty much the same.”
Finally, Mr. Rhodes did express frustration that OTPs are not seeing more growth and acceptance in the past few years, with the stress on opioids front and center in the health care world. “This is because of the lingering stigmas associated with methadone,” he told AT Forum. “Over the years, it’s delivered the best results and most demonstrable, and yet, the industry does a terrible job of promoting itself and in public relations.” This is why the addiction field is gravitating toward integration with general health care. In the meantime, however, OTPs–including those with the Acadia brand–continue to move forward. Most recently, Acadia announced plans to open a new OTP in Vermont. Stay tuned.