Jaime Blaustein has experienced his rock bottom.
Blaustein, the former investment banker, knows firsthand what it’s like to be in despair, not knowing where to turn, in need of guidance, support and some tough love.
In fact, he’s had a few moments like that.
“The lowest of lows I’ve had, I could go into all these war stories,” Blaustein said in an interview with Behavioral Health Business. “I was arrested for the fifth time shooting heroin in a bathroom at Penn Station.”
Blaustein’s story is one of redemption, perseverance and acceptance.
After battling addiction for several years — and going in and out of seven addiction treatment facilities before finally getting clean — Blaustein is on the other side of his addiction for many reasons. One, being his now partner in business, Ben Brafman.
Blaustein was admitted to an inpatient drug rehab facility called Destination Hope owned and operated by Brafman about ten years ago in Fort Lauderdale when Blaustein was 21. At the time, he was nowhere near ready to get clean and Brafman ended up kicking him out.
Three years later, Blaustein finally got clean. He got his M.B.A. from Duke University, was a successful investment mind on Wall Street, started sponsoring other addicts and one day during the pandemic, he got a text from his past life.
“Hey,” the text from Brafman read. “I sold Destination Hope. I want to start something a bit more mental health focused. Do you have any interest being involved?”
Fast forward to today when Blaustein and Brafman in September will celebrate the ribbon cutting ceremony of their brand new Sylvia Brafman Mental Health Center in Tamarac, Florida, a new health clinic that will focus mainly on mental health treatment such as chronic anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and a number of other issues people struggle with on a daily basis.
The new health center is a passion project for both men. Blaustein, with his finance and Wall Street background, will serve as CEO and Brafman, will serve as General Manager to oversee all clinical operations.
It took a while for Brafman to walk Blaustein through how the new partnership would work and some convincing for Blaustein to give up his life on Wall Street. At the time, he enjoyed keeping his two worlds separate: a financial adviser in his professional life and an advocate for addicts in his personal life. But the more the two talked, the more they were sold on the idea.
Blaustein said the reason why the new health center is unique is because it puts mental health first as opposed to being a primary substance abuse treatment center that puts mental health as a secondary, sometimes afterthought, issue.
The combination of both Blaustein and Brafman’s strengths will also be relied upon when getting this operation off the ground. Brafman is an industry expert who also owns and operates The Academy for Addiction Professionals. Blaustein called his partner a “tremendous clinician,” and an expert in his field.
Blaustein obviously brings the financial and executive chops, but he also brings a very personal backstory and a way to understand what a patient with addiction and mental health issues truly needs.
“I’m coming from a place where I have no industry experience, but I am a client advocate to the nth degree based upon my own experience,” Blaustein said.
Blaustein was able to raise more than $1 million in funding from four outside investors on a $5 million valuation and assembled a team of about 15 professionals, including a medical director, counselors and nurses.
Blaustein and the health clinic will also make it a point to reach out to those bankers, traders and other employees on Wall Street who undoubtedly deal with mental illness in high pressure situations. Blaustein said the stigma around mental health has been overlooked for too long on Wall Street. The health center’s Professional Program will include telehealth services and outreach for people in those professions Blaustein has experience with.
Other programs include Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP), Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), Outpatient Program (OP), Family Program, Professionals Program, and Career Services Program.
The health clinic’s Career Launch program will supplement its PHP/IOP/OP treatment programs. Insurance will not cover those programs but will incorporate one group per week for the broader group as a free and supplementary component of our treatment programs. Families will be able to upgrade to the full program which includes the five phases and is one-on-one with Blaustein and members of his professional network for an additional cost.
The Professionals Program is an IOP specifically for professionals.
“We have determined we will specifically have programs for a) Wall Street, b) collegiates, and we will potentially segment it further,” Blaustein said. “But for now our Professional Program will encompass everything outside of those two groups.”
The health center will also start out of network to start and eventually will selectively go in-network with insurance companies.
“The people that wouldn’t necessarily be candidates for an inpatient treatment center, or maybe they don’t have a serious diagnosis like schizophrenia, but are still very sick and struggling, largely with anxiety and sometimes with depression,” he said.
Finding the source of someone’s disorder as quickly as possible is a key component in how the clinicians at the Sylvia Brafman Mental Health Center will treat patients. Family, spiritual components, mindfulness and resisting a “cookie-cutter” approach to recovery will be staples at the new, intimate and small health center.
Blaustein said he and Brafman are excited about the journey ahead and are confident they can make a difference and grow as soon as they’re able to.
As far as future growth, Blaustein said the clinic’s primary concern is quality of care and being small and intimate enables us to maintain that easily.
“Ben owned Destination Hope, a facility with 100+ beds, and wants to get back to the intimate nature of Destiny Hope when it first started,” he said. “From a business perspective, I believe slow and steady wins the race. Therefore, the first year is about ensuring the ‘train is running on time’ – establishing our clinical program, our brand and our network.”
If the demand is there, expansion will happen as long as the quality of care is maintained.
“A purely residential facility, versus partial hospitalization, additional virtual IOP programs, a digital platform, and expansion outside of Florida are all alternatives that will be on the table,” he said. “So long as we’re able to maintain our unique culture.”
Blaustein has been working on growth for years now.
“My story has a lot of hope and I think that’s something that will be conveyed to our patients,” Blaustein.
“It’s a beautiful ‘come full circle’ type of story,” Blaustein said. “I have emails between Ben and my mom where he’s saying, ‘I don’t know if he’s going to get this right.’ The guy that kicked me out. Well, now we’re business partners.”
Written by Patrick Filbin