New business model: treat rural addicts

Nov 03 2017

New business model: treat rural addicts

One of the most effective, new tools in the battle against opiate addiction is Suboxone, the FDA-approved medication that helps recovering addicts by blocking cravings. However, access to Suboxone has been limited in some part of the U.S., particularly in rural areas.

Groups, a New York City-based startup is providing a solution by targeting small communities with populations of 10,000 or less and limited access to addiction treatment. Groups offers a Suboxone prescription and group therapy for only $65 a week, according to a recent article on TheVerge.com.

Since early 2016, Groups has opened 11 facilities in Indiana, eight in Maine, seven each in New Hampshire and Ohio and two in California. It is planning six more in Indiana, Ohio and California, according to the company website.

Groups’ founder, Jeff DeFlavio, is a Dartmouth-trained primary care physician who also has an MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Before becoming a physician, the Boston native also worked at a boutique investment bank.

In 2010, DeFlavio enrolled in medical school at Dartmouth and 2010, and became aware of the opiate epidemic while serving an internship at a small primary care clinic in Newport, N.H.

“Throughout a day, we would see 15 patients and every single one would have a large prescription for painkillers, obvious IV drugs problems, or some other serious substance abuse issue,” DeFlavio told TheVerge.com. “This was a community I felt a part of as someone from New England. I had come back home, and it was an apocalypse.”

DeFlavio wrote his senior thesis on the barriers to access for medication-assisted treatment. He also switched to a joint program for medicine and business. In 2014, he and a local Dartmouth doctor opened a clinic in Claremont, N. H., offering suboxone treats and group therapy. That provided the model for the startup, which raised $4 million in seed money in late 2015.

“Our goal is to provide effective, evidence-based care to the largest group of people possible” by keeping costs low, DeFlavio told the Verge.

In Groups’ treatment model, patients participate in weekly group therapy led by addiction counselors and receive medication management from local physicians. In rural areas, Groups has been able to sign up local physicians to provide opiate addiction treatment in rural areas where it had not been unavailable, according to DeFlavio.

In September, the California Health Care Foundation (CHCF) announced it has made an investment in Groups. CHCF is providing a loan through its Health Innovation Fund, which supports health care technology and service companies working to improve care for under-served communities.

Based in Oakland, the California Health Care Foundation (CHCF) is an independent, nonprofit philanthropy that primarily focuses on improving access to coverage and care for low-income Californians.