Universal Health Services’ Acquisition of Polaris-Backed Ascend Affirms New Model for Behavioral Health

By Brian Chee, General Partner, Polaris Partners

Today’s announcement that Universal Health Services (NYSE: UHS) is acquiring Polaris-backed Ascend Health is an affirmation that effective service models for psychiatric care can be developed.  That vision—combining high quality mental health care with specialized programs and sound cost-structures—was championed by Ascend’s founder Richard Kresch, M.D.

Dr. Kresch,  a leader in psychiatry and an entrepreneur, built Ascend into the largest private behavioral health provider with nine freestanding psychiatric inpatient facilities located in five states, including Texas, Arizona, Utah, Oregon and Washington.

How did Richard do this?  He built from the ground up.  First, he took lessons from the service industry and identified the personal choices patients and families were demanding.  Second, he built broad care options across all age groups.  But he didn’t simply lean on old systems of care, he and his team created innovative programs.

For example, their Freedom Care Military Program supports the unique needs of our warriors, veterans, retirees and their families.  Ascend also created the Exclusively Women Program, which addresses the unique mental health and chemical dependency needs of women in crisis using evidence-based approaches. Ascend’s Behavioral Pain Management Program is designed for the treatment of chronic pain, medical and psychiatric diagnoses, helping patients control the use of prescription medications while learning coping skills needed to manage their pain long-term.

Finally, Richard demanded the highest quality care and facilities, and integrated each facility into the local community healthcare system.

Universal Health Services can take Richard’s vision forward in a substantial way, maximizing the potential of this new model for mental health care and seriously address the mental health needs across the U.S.

This is an exciting moment for healthcare and a case study on how to improve healthcare services.



Categories: Healthcare, Polaris

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