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Sovereign Health today: Agents of a paradigm shift

Tonmoy Sharma, CEO of Sovereign Health

Sovereign Health today: Agents of a paradigm shift

The behavioral health industry is in the middle of a tsunami, with insurance reimbursement on a very severe downward trend. Sovereign had the foresight to build strong clinical compliance departments, invest in training and make sure that we got our ducks in a row. While you can never cover every eventuality, I think we’re better prepared to weather the tsunami than most people.

The clinical community and our referral base often refer to Sovereign as the “higher level of care,” even though we have the same licensing and same physical infrastructure. So, how are we a higher level of care? I think it speaks to our clinical acumen and to the fact that we treat more difficult patients. We are competing way above average, along with Harvard, Johns Hopkins and UCLA – it’s unheard of to be at that level of excellence.

Dr. Veena Kumari, Sovereign’s Chief Scientific Officer just completed her surveys at McLean Hospital. This is independent data managed and analyzed by McLean Hospital from sites from around the country, and it shows that our treatment outcomes are much higher compared to the national average. So, it’s an improvement in different aspects (i.e., substance abuse, depression, psychosis, emotional lability, self-harm and relationship) on the eBASIS-24. This data shows our treatment is very good. We see that from a clinical perspective when parents write to me and say that nobody else in the country would take them. Kudos to our clinical teams for handling such challenging patients!

Nationally, we’ve been recognized as being in the top 11 percent of the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing private companies for the third consecutive year with no external funding. We’ve had some great successes in 2016. We’ve entered into partnerships with Argosy University and the University of Southern California (USC) to offer graduate students the opportunity to earn the clinical hours they need to become clinicians.

We are an organization driven by that “why,” by that belief that we have a greater purpose that we are serving the people who need us most. Our people are our biggest assets; it doesn’t matter if you’re a writer, house manager or a driver – all of our employees make a difference in their own way. We, as an organization, can have faith. We have stood up to the giants like Health Net and to the bullies that assaulted our staff, and we’re not frightened to do that.

Looking ahead to 2017

Going forward, we need to engage our people. If you work at Sovereign, we are going to invest in you. We’re starting our own Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADAAC) course. Why? We want our house managers to become case managers. We are invested in the people who are invested in us and the organization.

I want to make management-based care more of a reality in the next year and have feedback-informed treatment where therapists get informed about how they’re doing to provide the best level of care we can. We are also going to have neuroscience-driven, clinical research and data-driven, clinical treatment. Substance use can damage neurons and inhibit recovery, so let’s do the assessments properly and check cognitive function to provide comprehensive treatment.

On a broader scale, the nation needs a paradigm shift in the way people conceptualize mental illness, and I think we can be the agents of change moving forward. A substance use disorder is a chronic, relapsing and unrelenting illness. Let us treat it with that respect it deserves. Let us stop treating a chronic, relapsing and unrelenting illness with episodic care like it’s an infection. You’re on a continuum of lifelong treatment of a brain disease. What we need to do is recovery management, and it should be a collaborative effort.

Where is utopia? It is when people are searching for Sovereign Health when they’re searching for mental health and addiction treatment, because they already know that we are synonymous with the best residential treatment for addiction and mental health. We have to earn that place by walking that walk, learning from our mistakes and always improving.

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