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Chris Wright Featured in McKnights LTC News 'Onward & Upward' Detailing iCare's Behavioral Health Programs

iCare’s Chris Wright: Seizing on skilled nursing’s behavioral health opportunities

by Kimberly Marselas, McKnight’s Long Term Care News

April 25, 2022

For more than 20 years, Chris Wright has been doing what many other nursing home operators either can’t or won’t: taking patients with behavioral health diagnoses, treating them with embedded, additional services, and becoming a valued community partner while building value in his own business.

Following an expansion of his iCare Health Network last year, Wright remains bullish on building and managing behavioral health and other speciality services. But even as regulators put more emphasis on addressing the mental health needs of nursing home patients, the owner-operator cautions that it’s not for everyone.

Providers that jump in before building out the infrastructure and understanding the required investment aren’t likely to get the same results, iCare’s president and CEO warned in an interview with McKnight’s Long-Term Care.

“We became known as sort of a problem-solver for these patients that traditional nursing homes weren’t taking at the time,” Wright says of his company’s quick reputational growth. It entered the sector in 2002 with five properties purchased out of receivership and now has 12. “It was a way we built our company, and we capitalized on it.”

Those buildings were all maintaining census in the mid-to-upper 70% range, and Wright immediately turned to local hospitals to determine who they were having a hard time placing. The answer was patients who had both skilled care needs and behavioral health diagnoses. iCare filled its first 30-bed behavioral unit within 60 to 90 days.

The for-profit’s specialities now include six behavioral health units; multiple Touchpoint branded buildings with pulmonary and cardiac services; an HIV unit in inner-city Hartford and programs that serve patients being released from prison in two states.

iCare has also become a sought-ought expert for providers in other states looking to create their own behavioral health services, an area where there is growing interest.

2021 report from Brown University found the percentage of people diagnosed with serious mental illness, many of them under 65, has continued to increase in skilled nursing facilities, posing new challenges for both compliance and quality outcomes.

On April 13, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services unveiled a new behavioral health strategy that promotes access to prevention and treatment services for substance use disorders, mental health services, crisis intervention and pain care in a person-centered approach. CMS also reinforced its willingness to pay for diagnosis and treatment of such needs. 

Read the full article on the McKnights website here….