NewVista Behavioral Health Leverages Skilled Nursing Relationship to Expand Geriatric Specialty, Footprint

NewVista Behavioral Health is leveraging its relationship with its parent company to capitalize on a historically underserved population: seniors.

NewVista develops and operates behavioral health hospitals, substance use disorder (SUD) treatment facilities and outpatient centers. It has at least five locations across Ohio, and another two in the works.

NewVista is part of the CommuniCare Family of Companies, which has more than 80 skilled nursing facilities across Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.


Last month, NewVista announced a new geriatric program at its Sunrise Vista Behavioral Hospital in Canton, a move Vice President of Hospital Operations Kirk Kureska says is in line with the company’s future goals.

Behavioral Health Business recently connected with Kureska to discuss the company’s growing geriatric foothold, its hub-and-spoke model and the “significant, substantial” expansion he said NewVista will see over the next couple years.

You can find the conversation below, edited for length and clarity.


BHB: NewVista just announced a new program at Sunrise Vista Behavioral Hospital to serve folks 65 and older. What prompted that decision and what is the ultimate goal there?

Kureska: What prompted the decision was access to care.

This is a population for which beds are dire in need. We as a nation are getting older and getting sicker, so I think it is our responsibility to make access to care our driving force.

When the company began to look at markets within Ohio specifically to see where the care is needed most, we found a community in Canton, which is about an hour outside of Cleveland. It had no freestanding psychiatric hospital.

The goal was to create an opportunity in a community — which is a retirement community — that provides care and access to mental health and addiction care. So Sunrise was born.

Obviously there’s a nationwide shortage of behavioral health providers, but the problem is even worse for certain populations, like seniors and kids. Why is that?

The geriatric population has very unique needs, and many psychiatric hospitals are catering to a general adult population or younger adult population where, physically, the patients are fairly ambulatory and are not requiring a lot of medical intervention.

With geriatric populations, more medical interventions and physical therapy are needed — coupled with the fact that, as we age, deficits in the brain become more and more apparent.

When we start talking about bringing in the geriatric population, the first thing that comes into leaderships’ minds are: Do we have the capability to truly meet the needs of a population that has ongoing medical complications? You can speak the same to even a pediatric population, which has special needs of its own.

What that has done is push providers farther away from those age groups.

Baby boomers are one of the largest populations this nation has ever seen, and I don’t think the industry quite prepared itself for the evolution of them turning 65 and older.

At NewVista, we committed ourselves to this population, which is in dire need. With CommuniCare being our parent and having more than 90 facilities around the country, we really leaned into their expertise.

We have subject-matter experts that we can call on, but within that we also have geriatric psychiatrists who we lean into. We feel like we can provide a level of care and intervention that most of the general psychiatric hospital companies don’t really understand.

Creating a program specific to the population with those specific needs is really our niche now.

It seems like a big part of it is about breaking down those care silos between behavioral and physical health care.

Correct. We get into the chicken and the egg scenario a lot.

Well, this is a population now where the chicken and the egg are coming at the same time: There is a medical complication, there is a behavioral psychiatric complication, there is an emotional need and all of these things are happening in unison.

How big of a focus are seniors overall for NewVista, being owned by CommuniCare?

From a dedicated bed perspective, 40% of our total beds are committed to geriatric beds, which is going to increase when we open the new program at Sunrise Vista.

As the expert in the space being CommuniCare — and having that opportunity of partnership — it’s going to become more and more of a larger foothold for us. That 40% will continue to grow greater and greater.

You touched on this a little bit earlier as it relates to Sunrise Vista, but could provide more information on how NewVista chooses new markets and populations to target?

We can all agree there are not enough beds, but we want to make sure our skillset best meets the population’s needs.

When we look into these markets, we of course look at our competitors, how many existing programs are in place, how many of our hospital partners have programs in place and how we can benefit [the community] the most.

We partner with our communities to try to find their needs. And what I mean by that is we lean into the med-surg hospitals to determine what percentage of patients are seeking psychiatric care. Can we break down that age population? We look at our outpatient therapists in the market. What is the density of services available? Then we look at the bed availability, frankly, and we don’t just look in the specific city. We look at it from a regional and access-to-care perspective.

We take all those points in, as well as our competitive payer market, and we make a decision on the size of the building that we need to start with, understanding there’s always growth opportunity based on demand. Then we make a decision as to our partnership with communities, and we move forward.

Looking toward the rest of 2021 and beyond, what would you say are the biggest goals NewVista has its sights set on?

Continuing our evolution into what I like to call the NewVista way of care. It’s really the development of our specialized clinic programming, our programmatic programming, our medicinal interventions, our peripheral services, and things like transcranial magnetic stimulation as an intervention.

We are trying to continue to evolve, so we’re expanding our full continuum of care to ensure that we are providing day treatment, and IOP and outpatient services. We’re looking at how we can better partner in our community.

We’re looking at expanding beds. We have three primary projects going on right now, which will, in 2021, substantially grow the company. We’re opening a facility in Cleveland, we’re expanding a facility in Columbus, and then we’re going to move to an out-of-state opportunity, all within 2021. And beyond, I’m looking at all kinds of opportunities.

That’s as well as expanding our existing beds at even our residential addiction facilities — because the demand is overwhelming. As we lean in further and as our care opportunities, our reputation and our brand grows, referrals continue to increase, so we want to make sure that we have the availability to serve those patients.

From a company growth perspective, it’s really a hub-and-spoke model. You start looking at your lines of service, expanding into deeper outpatient interventions and other opportunities. Then you have a spoke that is bed expansion. You have de novo growth or opening new buildings. Then on top of that, you also have a spoke around staff recruitment, growth and development, as we’re creating leadership programs within our organization.

So 2021 and 2022 are going to be significant, substantial years of growth for NewVista Health. The company is a very young company, but in a very short period of time, in the past six years, our founders have executed their vision very well. And they have no desire to slow down, primarily because demand is continuing to grow.

It is incumbent on every leader in our space to continue to be innovative … and to continue to widen our doors with our services. Because the problem is not going away — the problem has become greater.

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