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Georgia-Based RiverMend Health
Written by Ted Jackson   
January 2015

Dr. William Jacobs has come home.

A Georgia native, he says, Dr. Jacobs appears to be taking advantage of one of the most interesting addiction medicine opportunities we here at Treatment Magazine have seen or heard of in a long time.

To the Uninitiated

Recently Dr. Jacobs says has taken up the mantle of addiction medicine chief where, unbelievably given the prominence throughout the South, and nationally as well, of the medical college and affiliated teaching hospital, there had previously been, according to Dr. Jacobs, little organized effort at teaching new doctors the key importance of addiction in the etiology of the myriad medical conditions that as residents new MDs come across. Dr. Jacobs is now the head of addiction medicine at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University, where he is initiating the uninitiated into the ins and outs of addiction medicine. Dr. Jacobs is also seeking to make other senior doctors more interested in integrating addiction medicine at Georgia Regents Medical Center, an approximately 400-bed hospital that is among the oldest and most important medical training grounds in the Southeast and, indeed, nationwide.We here at Treatment Magazine, having examined World Health Organization, WHO, statistics know that addiction - not even including tobacco -  is by far the leading cause of disease in the developed world. Dr. Jacobs understands this, and thus views his mission to place addiction medicine in the mainstream, removing stigma and training primary and specialty care docs to understand causality and treat it, as critically important. "It's remarkable the interest we are seeing in dealing with this properly for once," he said  And primary care docs are increasingly seeing addiction care as a growth opportunity for practices low reimbursed compared to specialist docs. Just like when he was down in Florida, Dr. Jacobs in addition to teaching, is also working with clients at a specialty treatment facility, this time a brand new high-end center called Bluff Plantation, part of a new behavioral health outfit called RiverMend Health. RiverMend has major Georgia expansion plans and has acquired Joan Borsten's Malibu and Brentwood properties out in California, both high quality ventures.

Chronic Disease Model

"Part of the reason I came back to Georgia is that the state is relatively bereft of addiction treatment centers, especially compared to Florida," says Jacobs, who is the medical director and key driver of the clinical model being adopted at Bluff Plantation and, indeed, throughout RiverMend. And Jacobs is certainly not reinventing the wheel, admitting freely that he is borrowing off models he feels have shown strong positive outcomes and that are evidence-based. "Bluff Plantation is the residential element of a network we will be setting up throughout Georgia and next to the detox element, which we outsource to Georgia Regents [Medical Center] in Augusta, it's the most acute care treatment service that RiverMend offers.

The Point is to Avoid Acute Care

Jacobs says that the clinical model being adopted by RiverMend, and thus in the Georgia operations and at Bluff Plantation, is one similar to that required of doctors and pilots that have the disease of addiction. "Yes you are correct, it's a chronic disease model," said Dr.Jacobs in response to a question from a reporter. The whole point of the chronic disease model, if it is adopted on a widespread scale say its supporters, is that over time there will be less and less need for highly expensive acute care residential type services.

What Will Industry Look Like?

It has been many years now that highly influential leaders like CRC Health Group founder Barry Karlin and later on guys like the new CEO of Hazelden, Mark Mishek, have either promoted chronic care or down played the importance of residential in the industry's future. Who isn't waiting to see ultimately how successful Hazelden will be in its Betty Ford branded outpatient care, which essentially is a classic "step-down" from residential. Ultimately, RiverMend executives say, Bluff Plantation will form a key but relatively small part of a RiverMend network of outpatient and addiction medicine facilities in Georgia. TJ



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