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Karlin will step down as chief executive of CRC Health Group

June 29, 2010
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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Company quickly grew into largest for-profit provider of addiction treatment

An administrator who admitted he knew nothing about chemical dependency when he acquired his first treatment facility 15 years ago, then just a few years later was running the largest for-profit provider of addiction treatment services, announced this week that he will leave his executive post. Barry W. Karlin, PhD, will stay on as CEO of Cupertino, Calif.-based CRC Health Group until a successor is named, likely by the end of this year.

“After devoting 15 years to building CRC, I feel now is the right time for a new CEO to take the reins and bring our company to the next level,” Karlin said in a statement released June 28, referring to his “personal decision” to step down. CRC’s founder will remain as board chair for the organization after departing as CEO.

Karlin, an accomplished but restless high-tech entrepreneur in the 1990s, often tells the story of his initial response to a colleague’s telling him at that time that a Northern California chemical dependency facility might be on the market. “I asked him, ‘What kind of chemicals do they manufacture?’”

He would purchase the facility (The Camp) in what he thought would be a one-time investment in the field, but what he would learn later about the treatment gap and other challenges facing the field and its clients would fuel a greater commitment, building a company with a national presence and strong venture capital backing.

Today CRC owns about 30 residential treatment facilities specializing in substance use treatment, but also has become a leader in the treatment of eating disorders, obesity, chronic pain and learning disabilities. In all, the company operates 150 treatment facilities in 25 states, Canada and the United Kingdom.

Barry W. Karlin, PhD

While the CRC name has national recognition in addiction treatment, many of the facilities it has acquired over the years have retained their own brand identity locally and nationally as well. These include Sierra Tucson in Arizona, Bayside Marin and Sober Living by the Sea in California, Twelve Oaks Recovery in Florida, Bowling Green Brandywine in Pennsylvania and Passages to Recovery in Utah.

Much of CRC’s early growth strategy focused on acquiring facilities that had strong records of clinical success but needed a new business vision and in some cases were facing imminent retirement of longtime leaders. The company was seen as seeking to capture a market somewhere between that of the private-pay facilities that are among the biggest national names in treatment and the centers that depend largely on public funding to treat the lowest-income clients.

Karlin could not be reached by Addiction Professional this week to discuss his announcement; a CRC spokesperson said he is on a two-week vacation.

Karlin said in the statement released this week, “My confidence in CRC has never been higher, and I believe the company is well-positioned to continue to be a leader and innovator in delivering the best quality care to our patients and students for many years to come.”