Heritage, Frist Cressey help back new addiction treatment venture

Spero bought Kentucky company’s assets, now adding clinics

Original article on Nashville Post

A heavyweight group of investors is funding a new Brentwood-based addiction treatment company that has started life by buying the operating assets of a Kentucky firm.

Spero Health was formed earlier this year and now runs 21 clinics in Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio that work with more than 5,000 patients each month. Twenty of those were formerly run by SelfRefind, which was founded a decade ago but whose former owners in 2014 agreed to settle charges of fraudulently billing for unnecessary urine sample tests. Spero’s leadership team, led by President and CEO Steve Priest, last week opened their 21st clinic, in downtown Madisonville, Kentucky. Coming soon is another location — the typical center is about 5,000 square feet and employs between 12 and 15 people — in southern Indiana.

Backing Priest, a longtime DaVita executive and that company’s former chief wisdom officer, and his team are local players Heritage Group, Health Velocity Capital and Frist Cressey Ventures as well as  South Central Inc., the family office and investment company for the Engelbrecht family of Evansville.

“As our nation continues to combat the opioid crisis, the need for quality providers is at an all-time high,” said Rock Morphis, managing director at Heritage Group, which invests on behalf of Community Health Systems, LifePoint Health and BlueCross and BlueShield of Tennessee, among others. “We believe Spero Health can be the new standard of care for patients suffering from substance use disorder and look forward to working with the team to build a company that will have a lasting impact in the lives of the patients we serve.”

Spero’s services combine medication-assisted treatment with behavioral health counseling, medication management and patient and family education, among other things, in an office model.

“The dramatic increase in drug use and high rates of overdose make it essential that individuals have a local and affordable community-based option,” said Priest. “We are excited that we will be able to provide more care to more people in more places with the commitment and support from our investor partners.”

Among those joining Priest in Spero’s leadership suite are CFO Rick Adams, who spent a decade at DaVita, and development Senior Vice President Mark Rappé, who was most recently at Med First but before that worked nearly nine years at DaVita.