CRC Health Corp: Growth Plunging

Amid widespread talk of operational difficulties at the nations largest treatment provider, as well as high-profile staff defections, CRC Health Corp’s growth rate has fallen sharply this year, with very slow growth continuing into the second quarter, according to SEC filings. After registering strong same facility growth – a key measure that strips out the effect on growth of CRCs numerous acquisitions – of over 8 percent year over- year in 2006 and almost 7 percent in 2007, the same facility number plunged to just 1 percent in the March quarter, with the latest filings also showing 1 percent growth and confirming the slowdown trend. Driving the downturn appears to be, in retrospect, a very poorly timed late 2006 acquisition by CRC of therapeutic boarding schools leader Aspen Education, which has been hit by the credit crunch as parents are unable to access second mortgages and tuition loans to finance the huge cost of helping their children, with CRC admitting it has had major difficulty filling beds at one school in particular – likely Excel Academy in Texas – since the fall of 2007. Same facility growth in the CRC’s Youth Division – Aspen Education – has been falling at more than 10 percent all year. And some are wondering whether problems may be on the horizon for the well performing Recovery Division – treatment centers and the main cash cow methadone dispensing – as key players defect. Sierra Tucson CEO Keith Arnold left in July to work for CRC’s arch mergers and acquisitions competitor Subacute Holdings.