Community Medical Services has named several new top-level executives from leading organizations to its management team and rolled out internal tele-mental health services.
The Scottsdale, Arizona-based opioid treatment and mental health services provider has completed one phase of its development post-private equity investment and begins an expansion play that could see as many as 30 new locations open by the end of 2024.
Community Medical Services has historically focused on its opioid treatment program (OTP) business. OTPs are certified and regulated by state and federal governments and are the only clinics that are allowed to dispense the opioid agonist methadone as well as other medications for medication-assisted treatment (MAT).
However, the company has built and launched its own internal telehealth service because of the prevalence of co-occurring mental health issues that complicated treatment. The move is emblematic of the company’s investment in technology.
In April, the company acquired Brightside Clinics, an Illinois-based office-based opioid treatment (OBOT) provider, which operates seven clinics. OBOTs offer MAT for opioid use disorder (OUD) but do not offer methadone.
The company has been on a growth trajectory for some time. In 2022, the company opened 10 new sites of service. Community Medical Services is on track to open 12 de novo clinics by the end of 2023 and 18 or more in 2024.
Community Medical Services presently operates 70 locations in 12 states after the Brightside Clinics deal. Community Medical Services CEO Nick Stavros told BHB the company is still interested in M&A.
“We have the most ambitious growth goals we’ve ever had,” Stavros said. “When everyone is slowing down because of interest rates, we probably have more audacious growth goals than are typical, and to execute on those goals, we need to have an executive team that is best-in-class to sustain what we’ve done and grow into our next phase.”
Here’s a rundown of the new executives at Community Medical Services:
— Daniel Gutschenritter, chief financial officer: Gutschenritter was previously CFO of the addiction treatment giant BayMark Health Services. He ended a roughly nine-year stint as the top fiscal officer of the company in May 2021. He was CFO of women’s health practice Hera Health for about a year before joining Community Medical Services.
— David Thurlow, chief growth officer: Thrulow spent about five years at the pharmacy and health services chain Walgreens and the national senior living provider Elivant before joining Community Medical Services. He led teams focused on growth, implementation and operations at Walgreens.
Gutschenritter and Thurlow joined the company in 2023. In 2022, the company also added Michael Hailye as chief technology officer, Stacie Baird as chief people officer and promoted Dr. Robert Sherrick to the role of chief science officer and Jennifer Mason to the role of executive vice president of operations.
Community Medical Associates has been able to beef up its executive team with the assistance of its two largest investors: San Francisco-based FFL Partners and New York City-based Two Sigma Impact, according to Stavros.
The two firms acquired a majority ownership stake in Community Medical Services in a deal announced in late December 2021. Clearview Capital previously held the majority stake.
As the company continues to grow and evolve, technology will play an increasingly meaningful role for the company.
Stavros described the effort to launch the new telehealth service, which launched near the start of the year, as “starting an internal telepsychiatry company.” The company is still in the process of scaling its digital operations across its various state locations as needed. As of the time of the interview with Stavros, Community Medical Services had rolled out the telehealth service to five clinics in Montana and Arizona, specifically in rural clinics.
Of the roughly 20,000-person census at Community Medical Services, about 60% have a co-occurring mental illness, and only 40% receive care outside of the company for those needs.
“We see an opportunity there to add a service that benefits our existing patient population, and there’s a huge need,” Stavros said.
The most difficult part of developing the telehealth service was establishing the best policies and procedures to ensure the appropriate levels of care and patient safeguards. Virtual diagnostics with psychotropic medications to treat mental illness presented new risks for the company.
Medicaid accounts for 75% of the company’s patient base. Medicaid patients are known to have no-show rates twice as high as those of other insurance populations, necessitating special consideration to help people make and keep appointments.
The company came to telehealth services with some experience. The rural nature of its footprint offered remote services for substance use disorders in 2015. The most difficult part of establishing the service was developing a scheduling system and protocol that worked for its providers, patients and existing system. The company outsourced patient engagement and sourcing systems to a company called Mend VIP.
Community Medical Services is also participating in technology development initiatives. On its own, it’s contemplating developing business process systems. But it’s also partnering with other organizations to create and refine new software. The company built an app in partnership with Bright Therapeutics, which develops patient management, monitoring and engagement software.
Bright Therapeutics has already developed software for the eating disorder treatment segment called Recovery Record. It also has apps related to anxiety and depression, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Stavros has contemplated developing an app for Community Medical Services for years and has piloted several in the last three years. In 2022, Community Medical Services partnered with Bright Therapeutics to have Bright develop a white-label engagement app. Community Medical Services piloted the app in 2022, which is geared toward patient engagement and care outcomes tracking.
“We piloted this as we built it very much like a lean startup methodology—tweaking this and that and then checking the outcome,” Stavros said. “We’re in the process of actually rolling it out across the company, and we think it’s going to be by far the best app out there for SUD treatment.”
For Community Medical Services, the app was developed to help patients stay connected with their care counselor and participate in a contingency management, or incentives for care progress, program.
Community Medical Services has some exclusivity over the app it created for and with the company, called Recovery Path. Other parts of the app are available through Bright Therapeutics.