Substance use disorder (SUD) treatment provider Bradford Health named behavioral health care vet Lisa Evans its new CEO.
Evans has a decade of experience in the behavioral health field and previously served as chief operations officer at Alpharetta, Georgia-based behavioral health provider Perimeter Healthcare. She is tackling her new role at Bradford with a people-first approach.
Birmingham, Alabama-based Bradford Health has over 40 facilities and offers inpatient and residential, outpatient rehab, detox services and extended care services. It serves patients in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee.
Behavioral Health Business sat down with Evans on her fourth day on the job to discuss staff retention and strategies for growing Bradford’s geographic footprint. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Behavioral Health Business: How did your experience as COO at Perimeter Healthcare prepare you for this role?
Evans: I was in charge of all 10 campuses at Perimeter, most of which are acute care and psychiatric hospitals. I developed all the processes and procedures and hired staff. I really enjoy learning about acquisitions, mergers, needs assessments and determining where we can help the most. I also have a background in social work, so I really like serving underserved populations. Perimeter does a good job of going into rural and underserved areas, as does Bradford.
Bradford has a great reputation and has been in the business for 47 years. I’m looking forward to building on that foundation of depth and experience to increase our geographic footprint to improve access to care.
Where are you looking to grow Bradford’s geographic footprint?
We’re looking at expanding in the southeast. We’ll likely stay in this area to grow since we have such a great stronghold in Alabama. We have a pipeline and we’re looking at some opportunities right now – more to come on that.
What’s Bradford’s strategy for growth? Are you interested in de novo, M&A, joint ventures, etc.?
We’re interested in all of that. If it makes sense, we’ll consider it. There are a lot of people coming into this space, which is a good thing. But it also makes it more competitive. I think there are a lot of people coming to the table to look at opportunities.
A lot of folks started these mom-and-pop operations with a passion, heart and mission to do this, so those are always really good places to look for opportunities.
What are Bradford’s current biggest challenges?
The challenge for all of us in this space, Bradford included, is workforce.
It is our charge to make sure that our staff has the training and education they need. Bradford’s private equity group is very supportive of making sure the staff has the training they need. It’s also an employee engagement initiative. If I’m a therapist and I’m the best at what I do and I have more tools in my bag by learning different modalities then I’m more satisfied with my job. So I think we have to figure out more innovative ways to recruit and retain good talent to be competitive.
Of course, we look at pay; pay is important. But it’s more about listening to what clinicians need. People want to feel good about what they’re doing and to feel like they’re contributing. If we can create ways for them to grow with us, learn more with us and see the difference they make in people’s lives, that’s rewarding. Those are the people we want treating patients.
What change would you like to make at Bradford? What do you hope your legacy is?
I hope to build on the foundation that is already established. To respect that foundation and provide support and resources to the staff so that they can increase access to care for the patients
What’s next for Bradford? We talked about geographic growth; what else is in the works?
We will be making sure that we have the most recent treatment intervention modalities. We want to stay abreast of that.
We plan to solidify what we’re doing and take it to the next level to make sure that staff feels supported. I believe that people are the best resource and if we don’t take care of them, if we don’t respond to their needs, how can they respond to the patients that we’re treating?
I’m really big on working with local authorities, states, local community activists and regulatory bodies. I like figuring out how to work together instead of being in silos. That is something I will bring to the organization, helping Bradford be an even more collaborative partner in this space.
What trends do you currently see in the SUD world?
The statistics about fentanyl overdoses and related deaths are alarming. The federal government just gave around $760 million to Alabama to work on prevention and intervention with this. I think the biggest challenge right now is to stay ahead of it and keep people safe. We’re also very focused on veterans and how to help them as they deal with stress, trauma and PTSD.
Both of those aspects keep me up at night thinking about how we can best utilize what we can do. It feels overwhelming, honestly, because there’s a lot to be done. But if each one of us takes our role we can make a difference and shape that moving forward.