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Is Cartwright Going for the National Addictions Brand?  E-mail
Written by Ted Jackson   
December 2013

Just the name might give a clue to Michael Cartwright's intentions...American Addiction Centers. Reappearing on the addictions stage after aggregating assets now known as Foundations Recovery Network - acquired this summer by none other than the Pritzkers of Chicago - the addictions entrepreneur has been aggressive indeed about building an impressive portfolio of  treatment assets. But most importantly, he appears to be building a national brand, which, if he is successful, will be the first time that someone has been able to do this since managed care unraveled 1980s attempts like Parkside.

Can it Fly?

Of course, the ability to make a national brand fly, apart from smart and ubiquitous marketing, is to get the commercial payors on board. As AAC brings its latest facility online, Desert Hope in Las Vegas, one cannot help but be impressed. Along with his Greenhouse facility in Texas - a conversion of the old Nieman spa - Desert Hope screams luxury. But when you visit the AAC website, you are greeted by the key phrase "most insurance accepted."  In interviews with Treatment Magazine Cartwright is absolutely insistent that he has the payors on board now and that they are there to stay. Certainly, when AAC says "most insurance accepted" they are targeting a well insured demographic with excellent out-of-network benefits. And along with that, in order for AAC to really work over the long term, the payors who approve treatment for their insureds have to see results ...in other words the insurance companies are going to want see that AAC delivers outcomes.

Credibility

Clearly one of the reasons that Cartwright is able to get so many beds up and running is the major credibility he developed while building Foundations. And not Foundations Recovery Network, which was a collection of rather high end assets that Cartwright put together after he built Foundations Associates, which is where he did the major clinical work upon which AAC is being based. It was at this time that Cartwright became a pioneer in developing dual diagnosis care and the other clinical models which have stood him such good stead. With access to plenty of capital through his well connected board, who have been behind some of the most successful medical and behavioral health enterprises in U.S. history, Cartwright is now testing his ability to roll out the clinical models he honed, while working in the Medicaid/Medicare trenches at Foundations, on a large scale at AAC.

New Approach

The approach that Cartwright is taking is the opposite of the one taken by CRC Health Corp. which, with its many facilities in pretty much every region of the country, has a national footprint but no national brand to speak of, although there have been very recent efforts to bring the CRC name to fore with regional assessment centers that began opening this year. When discussing AAC marketing efforts this summer with Treatment Magazine, Cartwright made clear his intention to spare no expense and to plumb every available channel. Already, AAC has launched a national ad campaign through cable television advertising, a critical step in establishing a coast-to-coast name recognition.

Longevity

But the real key for Cartwright in laying down a treatment enterprise with longevity will be in whether or not his programs deliver good value. In the new era of health care reform, there is going to be little patience on the part of payors and consumers for supporting a product that doesn't deliver on the value front. A small facility might get away with not delivering on this front for pretty much forever, never really having to become accountable. Not so for a treatment enterprise that establishes itself as a national brand, which will inevitably attract a spotlight, becoming an example of what treatment has to offer to which everyone can relate and about which there is much general skeptisicm. To become a national brand with longevity, AAC must prove that treatment works.

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