The Future Leaders Awards program is brought to you in partnership with PointClickCare. The program is designed to recognize up-and-coming industry members who are shaping the next decade of behavioral health, senior housing, skilled nursing, home health, and hospice care. To see this year’s Future Leaders, visit https://futureleaders.agingmedia.com/.
Andrew Sfreddo, Senior Director and Head of Behavioral Healthcare at Blueprint, HCRE, has been named a 2023 Future Leader by Behavioral Health Business.
To become a Future Leader, an individual is nominated by their peers. The candidate must be a high-performing employee who is 40-years-old or younger, a passionate worker who knows how to put vision into action, and an advocate for behavioral health patients, and the committed professionals who ensure their well-being.
Sfreddo sat down with Behavioral Health Business to talk about finding niches in the behavioral health space and the industry’s need to find a common language. The below answers were edited for length, style and clarity.
BHB: What drew you to this industry?
Sfreddo: What drew me to the industry was threefold.
One, the undersupply of mental health and behavioral health care services across our country.
Secondly, it touches my life personally. I’ve had some family members go through things in the behavioral and mental health care arena, and I saw firsthand what they had to deal with and the help that they really needed.
Lastly, the growth of the space. We saw private equity get into the space in a pretty big way, mostly in the outpatient sectors, over the past five years. I wanted to try to start and focus a practice on higher-acuity inpatient sectors and try to professionalize the industry a little bit more.
What’s your biggest lesson learned since starting to work in this industry?
Understanding where to focus and where you’re best suited. Whether you’re talking about the provider side or the investor side, it’s a big, broad space. So you have to hone in and figure out where the niche is.
I always tell people it’s a big blue ocean out there. Oftentimes when I start conversations, whether I’m speaking to an equity group or maybe it’s somebody who is looking to get into the space as a provider, I tell them that it’s important to understand what they’re trying to accomplish.
If you could change one thing with an eye toward the future of behavioral health, what would it be?
I think this space really needs to professionalize itself more. Part of that is that everyone has their own language within the space. Trying to come up with key performance indicators within the space, dependent upon acuity, would be very helpful and make it easier for groups and investors to understand, which would eventually help the space grow.
The other main thing that the space really needs is more liquidity on the financing and debt side. There is no true agency debt platform like there is in skilled nursing, senior housing and multifamily. Getting financing in this market has proven difficult, given that it’s misunderstood. I’m confident as the space grows that we’ll start to see some evolution there.
What do you foresee as being different about the behavioral health industry looking ahead to 2024?
I think it’s going to continue to be an asset class that groups may want to diversify into. I think we’ll see reimbursement continue to expand. More commercial insurance carriers will be able to fund mental health episodes and behavioral health care episodes the same way that they do physical health episodes.
That’s what the health parity law put into action. On the Medicaid side, we’re starting to see a lot of states have Medicaid enhancement. There’s an allocation within the budget of Medicaid rates at the state level being earmarked and set aside for services that people need in that payer class.
In a few words, how would you describe the future of behavioral health?
Promising but bumpy. It’s going to evolve and grow. I think there will be a lot of stops and starts along the way as we try to figure out the financing market and as groups try to get more intelligent about the space. With growth there will always be some friction, and some people who push back.
What quality must all future leaders possess?
I think you have to have intellectual curiosity. I think this space really need that. I’m convinced that if you have intellectual curiosity and you want to figure out a way to help an industry grow, you need to learn it, you need to understand it, and then you need to figure out if there is a way that you can help make it better.