Symetria Health may not be of the size of American Addiction Centers (OTC: AAC), Recovery Centers of America or other industry giants in the substance use disorder (SUD) treatment space. But if you ask CEO Chris Hassan, the Naperville, Illinois-based company is well on its way.
Founded in 2006, Symetria Health is the parent company of Symetria Recovery, which specializes in opioid use disorder (OUD) treatment in the outpatient setting. The provider, which has financial backing from private equity firms Monroe Capital and Pleasant Bay Capital Partners, operates 12 clinics across Illinois and Texas and is getting ready to add another six clinics and plant its flag in Ohio and Wisconsin. That’s not to mention another eight states where Symetria’s website says it has centers “coming soon.”
Hassan believes Symetria’s unique model and its relationships with payers have the company on its way to becoming the gold standard for others in the industry to emulate.
Symetria’s approach offers patients everything from counseling to medication dispensing and more out of one location. That way, no one can be lost in the shuffle, say, when they’re sent off-site to pick up medication-assisted treatment (MAT) prescriptions.
Symetria touts that only 13% of patients are still using after a year and only 11% relapse, significantly less than in other residential, intensive outpatient and opioid treatment programs, they claim.
Hassan recently talked with Behavioral Health Business about Symetria’s growth plans, how it competes with SUD industry giants and what goes into winning relationships with payers. Portions of the interview have been edited for length and clarity.
Inside the C-Suite shines a spotlight on executives in the behavioral health space. Know a top leader who’d like to be profiled in an upcoming Q&A? Drop us a line at [email protected].
BHB: Let’s start by talking about growth plans. Can you share any plans Symetria has to open new facilities or branch out to new states?
Hassan: We have six clinics operating in Illinois, and six clinics operating in Texas. We have six other clinics that are close to being ready and will be opening two in Texas. We’re also getting ready to open in Wisconsin and in Ohio.
We are working to complete coverage contracts with Blue Cross of Texas, and once that happens, the clinics in Texas will open. We are also currently in pre-contract talks with Anthem and that will dictate timing for when the Wisconsin and Ohio clinics will open.
We conducted quantitative analysis of all 50 states. We did a qualitative review of what we presently found to be the top 16 of those states. We’re looking at what the unmet needs are, where the opportunities [are] and what issues would be encountered in operating in those states.
It would be unfair to say, “We will be open in 10 states by this date.” But we have a strategic plan whereby we have our eyes on a number of spaces going forward.
Would Symetria consider expansion by acquiring new facilities?
I’m not going to rule out being open to acquiring, or maybe merging, with another organization to acquire licensure or facilities in another state. But in most cases, the locations are key, and that is going to drive [growth].
We get approached all the time by organizations that want to talk to us about [M&A] and yes, that is something we would consider. But especially from a cost basis, we are ruthlessly efficient in opening our new clinics from [scratch].
It’s a possibility, but I don’t know that is going to be the only thing driving our growth.
What are the biggest challenges and opportunities facing Symetria?
The biggest opportunities are partnering with health care systems here in the Chicagoland area, so that outpatient people can get into recovery, continue to go to work and flourish from that standpoint.
I think the biggest obstacle is having the support and the time necessary to be able to help everybody understand this is a quantum shift in treatment and results. Whether that’s helping insurance companies, investors, families and patients be able to understand that, we’ve got to get everybody on the page to achieve the goals that we’re all trying to achieve here.
You just mentioned working with insurance companies. Can you break down Symetria’s current payer mix?
Our payer mix mirrors the current mix in the state of Illinois. We are very fortunate to have a very productive and relationship with Blue Cross of Illinois, who represent the bulk of commercially insured patients in the state, between 65% and 70%.
We also have a significant chunk of our patients come from Taft-Hartley funds. [Taft-Hartley plans are multi-employer pension plans.]
We see the value of having their members be able to remain in work, while getting the treatment they deserve, in order to continue supporting their families.
We work out of network with a number of different insurance companies who are executive sponsors. We have some great executive supporters in Humana, Cigna and Magellan, who are all working actively with me and my team to be able to get contracts together that will help their patients get the treatment that they deserve and the outcomes that the insurance companies, the families and the patients are looking for.
We also offer a sliding scale supportive payment rate for those individuals who want to pay cash.
Can you share any metrics regarding your revenues or profit margins?
We have very creative contracts with our payers that allow us to earn bonuses or
contracted payments for success rates within our program.
We’re still at such a young age as a business. What I will say at this point is that we’re very profitable, and we’re increasing our profitability. As we get to more of our strategic goals this year, the profitability of the company is going to go up significantly.
How does Symetria compete with bigger players in the treatment space like American Addiction Centers? What are the pros and cons of being a smaller provider comparatively?
Being small and being nimble is a huge advantage because we can make advancements at a rate that a larger company may not be able to achieve. So we compete on the basis of our results.
The only kind of results I’ve ever seen from others in this market are surveys. Surveys are historically unreliable. They’re nice and informative, but they’re not hardcore data. We have hardcore data. And that’s how we compete.
The other thing is that we are constantly evolving. So as more third-party evidence is proven for something that’s either best-in-class, or represents another treatment option, or should another medication be approved, we can adopt those things and bring those into our service model to improve whatever we’re doing and make it better for our patients.
We have the ability to change over time and react as a small, nimble and effective organization. As we get bigger, our name is out there, [and] the brand is out there.
More and more treatment providers are receiving backing from private equity. Can you talk more about Symetria’s experiences with PE?
Symetria currently receives private equity backing from Pleasant Bay Capital Partners and Monroe Capital, and it has fueled a lot of the growth in the treatment industry. Basically any organization of any size has been funded by private equity, even the largest, which is Acadia Healthcare, was backed by Bain Capital.
[For] providers that are looking to go to that next level, private equity is the fuel that can drive that. You just have to be exceptionally careful in choosing your partner and making sure that your timelines and visions are aligned with what you’re trying to achieve.
With the exception of American Addiction Centers, the treatment industry lacks a publicly traded provider. Have you given thought about going public one day?
We’ve got a lot of growing to do and a lot of bridges to cross.
But my hope would be that our treatment model … becomes well known. A number of experts and people whom we have dealt with have said that this treatment model will be the standard of care for OUD in particular, and probably for chemical dependency overall, in the next five to seven years. That means that the growth is going to be strong. It means the competition will start to imitate the kind of care we provide, which is the greatest form of flattery.
I won’t say that going public is not possible at some point in the future, but I would say that that is a ways down the road, and nobody’s talking about it at this point in time.
With a lot of new providers and federal funding entering into the market, there seems to be increased scrutiny in the treatment sector. Do you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing?
I always think more treatment and more funding is better. What has to be done, though, is that the treatment needs to be effective and proven. And money needs to be appropriated and focused in the right places.
A lot of people in this field feel like it’s a gold rush. There are a lot of people that are jumping into this, and a lot of money is being invested into this space. There seems to be more interest in making money than treating patients, and that’s never a good thing.
.I would encourage state and federal administrators to track the results and impact of services being provided to patients.
Finally, are there any other growth goals that Symetria has in mind beyond what you’ve already discussed?
We want to be able to close more contracts. Those are going to be huge drivers. We are going to focus on brand building and looking to take some of the results of our work and publish them.
We’re seeing dual dependence rising in [tandem] with the use of opioids. The growth model goal we’ve got is to ensure that we’re penetrating these communities and getting the care that we need to as many people as needed.
There’s a lot of M&A and consolidation going on and with large players as well, which we think will play to our advantage. Because as they begin to combine and see our data across other platforms, that will give us a greater ability to be in network with a number of these payers at the high rate that we deserve, and that we will have earned through our outcomes.
I think in 2011 and 2022, you’ll see our footprint begin to expand more with the number of patients and families that we help. I think we will probably triple in size from a certain standpoint in the next two years.