The behavioral health care industry has long been fragmented and siloed. Rather than offer the continuum of care, most providers specialize in certain types of treatment delivered in a specific care setting. And there’s often little continuity between different levels of care.
But the behavioral health care industry of the future will be more holistic, with consolidation and partnerships creating ecosystems designed to deliver the full continuum of services.
At least, Rob Marsh, senior vice president and COO of Kindred Behavioral Health (KBH), thinks so. The relatively new behavioral health arm of the specialty hospital giant Kindred Healthcare, KBH has based much of its strategy on such a comprehensive approach to care.
It’s an approach Marsh believes will become especially valuable in the long-run.
“The industry is headed … toward that holistic approach — where payers, providers [and] regulators all come together to develop, monitor and operate behavior health systems within communities,” Marsh said. “That just aligns perfectly with Kindred’s strategic plan as it relates to behavioral health, because that’s how … we focus our efforts now.”
Marsh made those comments during a recent behavioral health dealmaking webinar hosted by the national law firm Polsinelli, but it’s not the first time he’s called out the industry’s need to improve care continuity.
“If a person goes into a med-surg or short-term acute care hospital with some type of cardiac event, they’ve got cardiac care, cardiac rehab, home health and an entire ecosystem that supports them,” Marsh said during an October webinar hosted by Foley & Lardner LLP. “The systems that we have within behavioral health are so disjointed, with very little continuity between one level of care and another, and that’s where patients really get lost.”
Marsh has seen it happen first-hand, he said during the Dec. 1 Polsinelli webinar.
Before joining KBH in 2019, he spent about seven years working at Acadia Healthcare (Nasdaq: ACHC). There, he most recently served as division president, overseeing 12 hospitals and more than $200 million in net revenue.
“Within Acadia, there is a focus on simply bringing to market freestanding behavioral health hospitals or residential treatment facilities and working tangentially with the behavioral health community as it exists,” he said. “What I’ve learned — and what I’m bringing to Kindred — is that that type of isolative approach to behavioral health and serving the needs of the community has not really gone very well in certain areas.”
Instead, KBH is focused on covering all the different components of the behavioral health industry, he said.
Since its founding last year, KBH has grown quickly.
It took over the management of Kankakee, Illinois-based Riverside Medical Center’s 64-bed behavioral health unit in June. Then in July, it acquired two WellBridge hospitals in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and announced a JV with Baystate Health to build and operate a $43 million, 120-bed behavioral hospital in Massachusetts.
To date, the provider has about 190 beds in its portfolio.
“We’re leveraging our relationships with health systems throughout the United States to develop joint venture partnerships and bring to market not only behavioral health hospitals and inpatient behavioral facilities, but really [develop] entire behavioral health ecosystems to serve those markets,” Marsh said. “That’s what really set us apart and why we have so much interest in partners working with us.”
KBH is approached on a weekly basis by different health systems interested in working with the company, Marsh said. That interest revolves around everything from JV partnerships to the management of behavioral health units, as well as potential M&A opportunities.
As such, KBH’s pipeline is robust, with the JV operation of inpatient behavioral health facilities taking top priority, followed by management services agreements, both of those being with health systems.
That’s in line with the trend of intensified collaboration and consolidation Marsh expects to occur industry-wide in the years to come.
“Within the next year or so, we’re going to see a continued and increased utilization,” he said. “We’re going to see continued activity by private equity, as well as other players in the market, to acquire and expand behavioral health services across different service lines. … As we look further into the future, five or 10 years out, … there are going to be many opportunities to form partnerships and alliances.”