New healthcare company in Brentwood wants to help tackle opioid addiction


New healthcare company in Brentwood wants to help tackle opioid addiction

By MATT BLOIS

A new healthcare company in Brentwood wants to help tackle opioid addiction.

Spero Health formed earlier this year, and recently acquired more than 20 clinics in Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana from another healthcare company. Those clinics serve more than 5,000 patients a month.

The newly formed company bills itself as one of the largest office-based opioid treatment providers in the country. Its headquarters is on Virginia Way.

Spero CEO Steve Priest worked across the street for 16 years at the dialysis company DaVita Health. After working as an executive at a large healthcare company, he said he wanted to do something more entrepreneurial.

“I knew I wanted to do something … different than running a $14 billion healthcare company,” he said. “But I was passionate about healthcare and I really wanted to do something that was going to make a difference in people’s lives.”

A colleague put him in touch with the Kentucky-based healthcare company SelfRefind, which operated addiction treatment clinics. He ran the company for more than a year, and felt like it was time to expand.

From his time at DaVita in Williamson County, Priest had connections to the healthcare industry in Tennessee and was able to find companies willing to invest in Spero. Two of the investors listed on a recent press release are from the Nashville area.

Even though SelfRefind was based in Kentucky, Priest said he wanted to bring the company back to Nashville or Williamson County.

He said the healthcare community in the Nashville area is competitive, but it’s also collaborative. There are lots of healthcare companies in the area that are coming up with creative solutions to healthcare problems, and Priest wanted Spero to be at the center of the action.

Williamson County also has an impressive talent pool for healthcare companies. The new office in Brentwood has about 25 employees and they’re all from the Nashville area.

“It’s not like we recruited anybody from out of town because we didn’t have to,” he said. “That’s the beauty of being Nashville. The talent pool is large.”

He’s not sure how many more employees the company will need to hire, but the company is growing. Any new support staff will be based in the Nashville area.

“We will continue to grow in Williamson County. We will grow out of this (office) space by the end of 2019,” Priest said. “We don’t really know how many folks we’re going to need here.”

The company doesn’t have any clinics in Tennessee, but Priest said he expects Spero will open clinics in the state by early 2019. The locations aren’t set in stone, but he said Williamson County could be a good option.

“There’s a need here, so it wouldn’t surprise me,” he said.

Spero only offers outpatient treatment rather than residential programs. Priest said he believes it’s better to treat people in the communities where they already live because at some point they will have to learn how to deal with the disease at home.

The clinics provide doctor care, mental and physical health screenings and medication assisted treatment to ease symptoms of withdrawals. The clinics also offer counseling sessions and recovery support, such as assistance finding a job or housing.

Spero’s plan is to explain quickly. Priest said the company has an effective treatment program, and called it a moral obligation to grow. He expects that in 10 years the company will have clinics all over the nation.

But the company only wants to move into new areas if it can create a network of clinics. Priest said he wants new clinics to plug into existing healthcare systems.

“Our goal is to focus on a handful of states in our early days, to be very focused on building a network,” Priest said. “We’re not the solution to the problem, but we want to be part of the healthcare community anywhere we go and be part of that solution.”

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