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Entrepreneur goes off the beaten path in Florida market

July 9, 2013
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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He received his treatment, operated a sober home, and learned the ropes of the treatment business all in the recovery hotbed of South Florida, but Mitchell Baumann realized that to create the ideal environment he sought for comprehensive care, he would need to carve a less common path in his home state.

Searching for a location convenient to airports but far removed enough that clients wouldn’t be able to access drugs from their immediate surroundings, Baumann settled on the former site of a children’s hospital in central Florida on the outskirts of the Ocala National Forest. The Recovery Village opened last month in the Lake County community of Umatilla, with the help of financing from Baumann’s family and associates and fueled by his personal vow not to duplicate what he has come to describe as “treatment in a box.”

“Our target was going to be to treat pure drug addiction,” says Recovery Village CEO Baumann, who suffered through the peak of a cocaine and alcohol addiction in his late 20s and early 30s and got sober about five years ago. But he adds that as the complexities of today’s acutely ill treatment population became more apparent, what has evolved instead is a program that pays equal attention to substance abuse, mental illness and eating disorders, with the goal of a full continuum of care provided on one campus.

Key hires in the organization reflect this comprehensive approach. The chief medical officer is Kevin Wandler, MD, who besides having multiple certifications in addiction psychiatry served for many years as the chief medical officer for the Remuda Ranch treatment organization specializing in eating disorders.

Baumann describes his program as broad-based in many respects. The 12 Steps constitute its clinical foundation, but its services are also heavily influenced by the psychiatry expertise on its staff. It is offering detox, residential and intensive outpatient services in a continuum-of-care approach, and will add a sober living component within a couple of weeks. Adults are the target population, but adolescent services are scheduled to be part of the mix at some point.

Certainly there will be some challenges, as Baumann says that plans to be about 60% dependent on the insurance market will intersect with downward pressures on residential stays. “The Affordable Care Act will change a lot of things; long-term care is not being covered,” he says.

But the for-profit organization intends to push on with plans to offer a base 90-day treatment at a price point of around $32,500, Baumann says. He has employed a diverse marketing strategy that seeks not to be overly dependent on Internet marketing and that favors working directly with the professional community.

While it took more than two years for Baumann to realize the vision for his own treatment program, in other ways events have unfolded pretty fast, given that only about five years ago he was working in the kitchen of the treatment program where he found help. From there he opened a South Florida halfway house but saw it fail under the scrutiny of an inhospitable host city. He then would proceed to work in roles such as intake coordinator at treatment facilities in order to learn the business.

He wants to apply a similar sense of urgency to the process of reaching out to patients whom he sees as beset by increasingly complex problems. “Today, you don’t wait for an appointment time to deliver service,” he says. “People are too sick right now.”