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N.J. provider: Diversification is crucial to ACA preparation

March 13, 2013
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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At New Jersey-based Integrity House, the act of preparing for implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been eased somewhat as a result of activities that began taking place well before healthcare reform became a reality.

Longtime Integrity House official Robert J. Budsock, who became president and CEO in 2012 following the retirement of David Kerr, explained in an interview with Addiction Professional that the organization launched a concerted effort to diversify beyond its traditional therapeutic community (TC) residential base around five years ago. Today, with many national leaders concerned over whether long-term residential treatment will have any role in a shifting healthcare market, Integrity House has added recovery residences and short-term residential treatment and also has established an outpatient continuum of services.

“At one time, practically our entire budget came from [government] grants, but about five years ago we saw a shift,” says Budsock. “We were learning that we needed a wider array of services.”

In January, Integrity House (which now operates more than a dozen buildings in the Newark area) hosted a policy briefing designed to apprise its board of directors of the latest industry developments. Speakers from the policy and foundation communities addressed the board, in keeping with Integrity House’s practice of looking outward for guidance on understanding the marketplace.

Budsock explains that in Integrity House’s process of reassessing its service mix, “We started visiting other facilities to share best practices. Some were similar to us, but some were hospitals in the area. We knew we were going to start looking more at a medical model.”

In one manifestation of this development, Integrity House now staffs a local community health center with a licensed addiction counselor twice a week, and Budsock says he wants to move toward having direct primary care expertise within an Integrity House addiction treatment site as well.

He does not believe the residential level of care will disappear entirely in the coming years, though he adds that he sees it mainly being reserved for clients coming from area drug court systems.

While it will remain important for Integrity House and other specialty addiction treatment organizations to continue to argue for all levels of care that improve people’s lives, Budsock adds, “We don’t want to be so stuck in advocacy that we find ourselves left at the station as the train goes by.”

As ACA implementation continues, he indicates it will be important to see how well a balance is struck between improving quality through evidence-based practices and controlling costs under a tightly managed system.

Budsock says that as part of planning for the new healthcare environment, Integrity House hired three individuals with MBAs, as the organization’s chief financial officer, human resources director and director of development all share that educational background.

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