One of Nashville’s newest health care companies has already begun to expand, thanks to some big-name local investors.
Spero Health Inc. launched in February after purchasing SelfRefind, an outpatient behavioral health firm with 20 locations in Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana. Since then, the company has opened an additional facility in Madisonville, Kentucky, and is set to open its 22nd location across the Ohio River from Louisville in Southern Indiana by the end of the year.
Spero, which focuses on treating opioid addiction, joins a growing list of behavioral health and addiction-treatment companies based in Middle Tennessee, including Acadia Healthcare (Nasdaq: ACHC), American Addiction Centers and CleanSlate Centers. The new firm is backed by Bill Frist’s Frist Cressey Ventures, Heritage Group, Health Velocity Capitol and South Central Inc.
President and CEO Steve Priest, who co-founded Spero, said the capital will in part be used to continue the company’s expansion into Indiana and Tennessee. He said Spero expects to open a minimum of 10 new facilities next year, with its first Tennessee location planned for the first quarter of 2019. Priest said each facility is about 5,000 square feet and employs 10 to 15 people. The company has about 300 employees total, 20 of whom work out of Spero’s Brentwood headquarters.
“I would like to tell you there is a community that doesn’t need us,” Priest said. “We want to build something sustainable. It’s not just growth for growth’s sake. … It’s about taking a great clinical model and culture and open more facilities.”
Priest said Spero’s model of care is rare because it concentrates exclusively on treating patients addicted to opioids through physician services, behavioral health care, medical-assisted treatment and recovery support such as helping people apply for jobs or find housing. He said those everyday tasks can become real stressors for those in recovery.
“A lot of people do what we do but not a lot do it under one roof,” Priest said. “By having our team together … talking to each other every day about the patient, you get a better blend of care … and part of our goal is to help people get their life back.”
Its an approach that will continue to evolve, Priest said, as the industry tries to tackle what he called the number on health crisis in the country. A former DaVita Kidney Care executive, Spero said opioid treatment is at a similar stage as dialysis was in the 1970s — a lot of smart people trying to figure out the best way to treat a disease.
“I think everyone who is doing this right now is kind of pioneering it,” Priest said. “That’s why I bring up the analogy to kidney care. … Fast forward in kidney care almost 40 years and it’s a very well organized, mature industry with a tremendous amount of clinical data about what good care is. I think we are on the front end of that.”