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Lionrock Recovery: Online Addiction Treatment
Written by Ted Jackson   
May 2012

 About ten years ago, based on his idea that telemedicine was the wave of the future that represented a way to get a grip on ruinous medical cost inflation, Barry Karlin started his eGetgoing Internet treatment venture that turned out to be a multi-million dollar flop. The CRC Health founder may have been distracted by the relatively easy money he was making at the time building the nation's largest chain of methadone clinics. In any event, eGetgoing was long on visionary pontifications and short on execution. As in distance Online Addiction treatment startup Lionrock Recovery's CEO Peter Loeb was featured on the cover of Treatment Magazine's May 2012 issueeducation - a famous example from the thriving multi-billion dollar industry is the iconic University of Phoenix Online - the Internet clearly has the potential to be a major game changer in the addiction treatment industry by vastly bringing down costs.

Game Changer

 And because addictions, and behavioral health, interventions usually do not involve physical contact - eg: surgery - a complete medical product can be delivered online, going far beyond just diagnosing and the like that a telemedicine solution might seem best suited for in a med surg environment. In other words, in theory at least, it is possible to operate pretty much a full service addiction treatment center online - a virtual addiction treatment facility offering the services that outpatient facilities, which account for over 90 percent of the $35B a year addiction treatment market, now typically render. With high broadband penetration rates and off-the-shelf, highly secure video conferencing products widely available, the environment for launching a virtual addiction treatment center has never been better. And it is into this milieu that a couple of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are starting a firm called Lionrock Recovery.

Scaleable

" We are approaching Lionrock on a very scaleable basis,"says CEO Peter Loeb, who,along with his partner Iain Crabb, formerly found success in other Silicon Valley ventures. By scaleable, Loeb means he is approaching the business intelligently, avoiding ramping capacity ahead of census, as well as giving away chunks of the business to venture capitalists. Lionrock is currently offering what is essentially an intensive outpatient treatment program. But with the ever growing chorus to treat addiction as a chronic disease, moving away from just offering detox to 30 day acute interventions, and the inherent flexibility that a virtual business structure offers, the possibilities for Lionrock are intriguing indeed. So far, Lionrock is concentrating on building alliances within the burgeoning higher end sober living operators, arguably the fastest growing sector of the addiction treatment business currently. At over $2K for a six week program, Lionrock is definitely not priced to close the treatment gap. But the product is an ideal companion to a high end sober home that wants to offer clients the possibility of a continuum of care post primary, or sober homes might wish to offer clients a residential type treatment experience without the need to move up the licensure ladder, with all the zoning and the not-in-my-backyard, NIMBY, issues that go along with that.

Valley Hope

In keeping with its tradition of being on the cutting-edge but operating under the radar, venerable Valley Hope Association has for the last several years been offering a distance treatment program that, unlike Lionrock, actually has clients. In fact, Valley Hope's AC/ESS has treated THOUSANDS of people since its inception, largely using a combination of the Internet and the telephone to reach the highly rural populations that Valley Hope has traditionally served. And Valley Hope has even managed to get insurance carrier payment for AC/ESS, which does NOT use video-conferencing technology. AC/ESS is essentially an IOP program where individual sessions are conducted by telephone, with th rest of the program delivered by a mix of instant messaging and Internet-based study modules contained in what is called the "virtual drug rehab therapy room." Like Lionrock, AC/ESS isn't priced to close any treatment gap, with all the potential for industry transformation that implies.

EDITOR'S NOTE: 10/26/2012... Since publication of this article in our print edition six months ago, CEO Peter Loeb tells us that Lionrock has so far enrolled about 30 clients in its online treatment program and that higher end sober homes, reluctant to jeopordize relations with key primary care referral sources that already have aftercare plans in place for their clients, have NOT proven especially good potential partners for Lionrock. Instead, Lionrock says it is focusing on residential primary care providers, pitching Lionrock as an aftercare solution. Thus, Lionrock will still likely find itself used in sober living setting, just the entry point will be different. CRITICAL IS THAT LIONROCK IS NOW CARF ACCREDITED, A TOUGH DESIGNATION THAT INDICATES CLINICAL AND BUSINESS PRACTICES MEET ACCEPTED STANDARDS...few, if any, other online treatment operations have acheived this designation. Also, the ability to attract highly experienced and qualified personnel is a MAJOR indicator of credibility in a starup like Lionrock. Carol Colleran, among the most experienced clinicians in the nation - definitely top 5 percent - and the pioneering founder of Hanley Center's hugely successful older adult specialty track, is now working with Loeb and hopefully will help the new company reach "take off." One thing that will help in that regard is that Lionrock is working on offering alternative, and much lower, price points.

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