|Written by Ted Jackson|
About a decade ago, Treatment Magazine profiled a Texas addictions legend, putting the late Mark Houston, who right down to his name evokes Lone Star imagery, on the cover of our magazine. After having held leadership positions in Texas treatment for years, he was opening a center outside of Austin in the hill country there, being among the very first pioneers of a major addiction treatment “hub” that has grown up around the state capitol. And it was right near this hub that, as so often happens in the treatment industry, a couple of guys in early recovery met, talked about their visions and stayed in touch. That was in about 2006, and one of the guys, Rob Park, went on to gain significant experience in the treatment business which came in handy when the other, Ben Levenson, called a few years later to say he wanted to realize on that vision. From a wealthy Texas family, and successful in his own right, Levenson had the means to make it happen. And the upshot was the launch five years ago of Origins Recovery Centers with two separate men’s and women’s locations in far southwestern Texas on the beautiful Padre Island along the Gulf Coast.
And in a phenomenon that also has a long tradition in the treatment business – Sierra Tucson founder Bill O’Donnell got a huge boost from a pioneering appearance on Phil Donahue in the 1980s – Origins has gotten a major leg-up from extensive appearances on Dr. Phil, according to Park. And backing that publicity has been a program that has been carefully crafted, the attempt being to achieve a treatment product that better integrates medical, clinical therapeutic and spiritual. “We have reached a point, after five yrs in operation, where we can offer the client a wide range of help from the medical, clinical therapeutic and spiritual arenas that has a lot of coherence and is well integrated, with each working to support the other and not working at cross-purposes,” says Park.
Stepping Things Up
Levenson, whose family has been marred significantly by the tragedy of addiction, is ready to step things up at Origins, hiring recently as CEO the experienced long-time Caron veteran executive Drew Rothermel. There is a plan, backed by highly experienced staff and significant capital, to launch an acquisitions-based expansion, with treatment center targets benefiting not only by a well-capitalized buyer but also by the huge investment Levenson has made researching program effectiveness.
Origins is just one center in the last decade to emerge out of Texas with a growing national reputation. When the new millennium broke in 2000, there were just a few centers in Texas with any kind of national reputation and reach. There are nowat least a dozen with that kind of profile. Not the least of these is the conversion of The Right Step’s Spirit Lodge, with founder George Joseph being a trailblazer of the Texas Hill Country/ Austin hub, into what is the very first expansion of the renowned Promises Malibu outside of its founding California locale. Promises owner Elements Behavioral did the Spirit Lodge conversion into Promises late last year.
Texas Still “Under-Bedded”
Despite the strong growth in Texas, some think the need hasn’t been filled and more growth is on the way. “I think that Texas is still under bedded,” says Michael Cartwright, the serial treatment entrepreneur and founder of the only truly national “pure play” addiction treatment enterprise and brand, American Addiction Centers, AAC. Cartwright is putting his money where his mouth is with a major expansion of his Dallas-area Greenhouse center. The Greenhouse is one of the first in a series of centers across the nation that Cartwright has either bought or built, and he is very actively seeking to acquire and build more with major announcements he says he hopes to deliver by year’s end. In the case of the Greenhouse, the expansion is indeed a large one, of the largest new build/expansions to have been done on the higher end private side of the treatment business so far this year. The Greenhouse was formerly the Marcus spa of the Nieman Marcus retailing fame. “The property had in fact always been laid out with expansion in mind,” says Cartwright, adding that his expansion is really just a matter of making relatively small adjustments to the original plan for the Marcus spa. AAC is adding 60 beds to the Greenhouse, which will bring the center up to a very large 130 bed total, more than three times what SAMHSA data says is the average residential size.
And residential is far from the only story in Texas when it comes to AAC. “Just down the road from the Greenhouse we will opening a 20,000 sf outpatient center,” says Cartwright. That, of course, means that AAC can offer a full continuum of care in the Dallas area, with the two expansions, residential and outpatient, obviously giving AAC a highly formidable competitive profile in the Texas market, one that only perhaps Elements Behavioral post Right Step acquisition can match.
Hazelden Betty Ford Eyeing Dallas
And underscoring the booming nature of the Texas market and its importance as one of the largest markets in the country, Hazelden CEO Mark Mishek has said that Hazelden Betty Ford, as the non-profit is now known officially upon closure of the historic deal early this year, has Dallas on its radar for possibly a second outpatient clinic built around the Betty Ford brand, the first one being rolled out in Santa Monica. Betty Ford is the only household name in addiction care and its arrival in Dallas will mean that, after a decade of major expansion, Texas has emerged as among the most competitive local markets in treatment. TJ