Executive Chairman, Trevor Colhoun shares how story has led him to solve problems in behavioral health and the vision for TPN.Health
Why I am involved with TPN.Health?
My journey with Trusted Provider Network, now TPN.Health, began around a year and a half ago. I have been engaged with the disordered behavior ecosystem my entire life because of my own personal tragic and traumatic episodes, and with loved ones in my family or circle of friends. It was not until a year and a half ago that I started studying the structure of behavioral health and the systemic issues that plague its inability to generate sustainable and systematic success. I am not a behavioral health professional; I am an investment professional. I analyze companies and industries for the premise of investment to place structured capital into a business, to generate a return on equity. Personally, in my career, I have always focused on broken systems and damaged companies; I like the underdog. This style fits me well as I came from a broken family riddled with abuse and addiction. I am dyslexic and struggled in elementary school. My experiences and childhood environment, coupled with my learning disability, created a deficient value and self-worth for my capabilities and self-esteem. Internalizing this, I began telling myself a story of low self-worth, and the story was reinforced with how I thought the world saw me and what I deserved. This pattern took years of therapy for me to break and work to build personal value and self-worth. However, I see this process much as I invest, manage, and build companies. I find worth in areas that are distracted and complicated by devaluing anchors whether it is a fledgling hotel that needs new management and a simple facelift, or a cash-burning data storage company that needs to acquire growth, my professional career bets on the underdog and unlocking its value.
Through this lens is my story and motivation of what we are building with TPN.Health
Like many, I began this journey with passion. Through a traumatic experience with a loved one, I reluctantly researched the chemical dependency treatment facility field. I was shocked by the lack of clinical stewardship for mental health compared to that of the area of physical health. For example, if I were to break my leg, I would go to the emergency room and immediately be treated. Eventually, I would see an orthopedic surgeon or doctor and be placed into a physical therapy program until I recovered. The process is clear, concise, and ubiquitous.
Conversely, the mind is a mystical creature, and we do not have a clinical recovery map like those clinicians in the “hard physical sciences.” But do we? It seemed to me that through available internet information and even behavioral specialists we were speaking with, there was a possibility. Sometimes treatment works, and sometimes it does not. Through this process of searching for the clinical recovery roadmap, I was introduced to some fascinating people and philanthropic organizations. These organizations had incredible abilities to illuminate the issues in the behavioral health space. First, I was relieved to learn that there is a clinical path to mental health and addiction recovery and that behavioral health has a clinical process. As a patient, if you work with the correct behavioral health clinician or team, you can build a recovery plan just like a person with a broken leg.
The bad news is, as a general population, we have veered away from our approach to this over the last 25 years. With access to the internet and money flowing from insurance companies, we have created a mixture that derails the clinical behavioral recovery path. I was told by a director at a national mental health organization that just the addiction space alone spends seven billion dollars a year for search engine optimization. Among the top twenty most expensive categories of searches, the words RECOVERY, REHAB, and TREATMENT all have a place independently. Conversely, the categories that were not on that list included: Medical Doctor, Cancer, Diabetes, and Physical Pain. The medical health field takes a clear path, with a protocol of medical screening tests and gateway clinicians like general internist that guide a patient through a clinical path. Therefore, a patient would not need to “Google” who they should see; they move through a well-established clinical path. Lastly, those key search words in behavioral health on Google are so expensive because they are so popular, and they are so popular because the behavioral health field has not developed a systematic clinical path.
This discovery is when my story with TPN.Health took a right turn. Yes, those philanthropic organization which I worked with had command of the issue, but they did not have a solution. Behavioral health is also a capitalistic problem. One cannot tell behavioral health professionals and owners of treatment centers that the industry is broken and walk away; these professionals need an alternative solution. In the end, they run businesses and need to keep the lights on, and wholeheartedly want to treat people with the best care and resources they have.
My right turn
Within my research, I came across the Trusted Provider Network. I discovered I knew one of its founders, and better yet, he was in my backyard of New Orleans. The network was roughly two years old, and the founders (Christopher O’Shea and Jimmy Mooney) had identified some of the same issues as stated above but seemed focused only on the treatment providers. The concept was simple: be the first third party group to verify the treatment center by “programming.” The vetting process would be objective and subjective. The TPN team would first approve personnel and clinical programs, and then it would discover what each program did best and where they were lacking. This is an innovative process and had potential. Pioneering this would allow behavioral health professionals to understand each other’s strengths and areas of focus, therefore outlining a completely transparent clinical path to recovery.
Christopher and I met for coffee in September 2018, and fireworks of passion ensued in our discussion. He very much understood the issues that my research uncovered. He knew that his solution played a part in improving the behavioral health ecosystem, but more needed to be done to create a whole scale solution to a clinical recovery path. We both saw the value of Trusted Provider Network and knew, with some refocusing and platform reengineering, we could make a significant shift in the behavioral health space. Christopher pointed out that to make this work, TPN needed clinicians in the system. Clinicians are the lifeblood of the entire behavioral health ecosystem, and without them on the platform, there are no patients to refer to treatment professionals. The idea was simple, but just not built in the most effective way. As behavioral health professionals, Chris and Jimmy identified the problem was with the care seekers and not the caregivers. People seeking behavioral health services were circumventing the professional clinician by searching for behavioral health treatment centers independently and (not surprisingly) getting poor outcomes. As a solution, Jimmy and Chris started vetting and verifying the treatment centers. Unfortunately, this did not solve the problem of leaving out the critical component of the role of the clinician. Besides, Jimmy and Chris could not drive traffic to the platform because the SEO cost was too competitive. We realized for this to work, and we needed clinicians to be the center of the clinical universe. The questions became: What do clinicians need? What do they want? What do they not have? What can we do to solve their problems and make the whole referral process more accessible and more effective?
At this point, I jumped in headfirst. We had a company that had value but was searching for direction and leadership. We had two founders that have given their life to the field of behavioral health and had a wealth of knowledge, contacts, and resources. The three of us started from scratch to rebuild the platform, this time for the clinicians, giving them the tools to take control of the behavioral health system. We spent our first four months doing multiple sessions with clinicians. By showing them our ideas, collecting feedback, and taking in their views, we focused on the significant issues that clinicians face and how we could help. The process was fantastic! We began building a community with other clinicians, continued building our knowledge base, and created a method to make confident referrals. The solution became more evident and began to unfold as we worked with the team and the clinicians we brought on board. We have created a platform exclusively for professionals in the behavioral health space so they can have the comfort to endorse each other, connect, find research, and build a practice. Creating these tools allows them to do what they do best, which is to treat patients and clients. From our perspective, it has become clear that the intentional building of robust communities allows the clinician to return to their roots and come onboard as verified and vetted treatment providers, authentically. This way, if our clinicians need further treatment for patients, they have that roadmap.
A future goal of ours is to open the TPN.Health platform to corporate wellness programs. This allows us to have a portion of the “general public” test and interact with the platform. This platform would build a solution to the problem of a clinical path to mental health and addiction recovery, the same issue that physical health medicine solved years ago. With the TPN.Health platform, if one has a behavioral health issue, they search on the platform for a clinical evaluation. When a professional behavioral health clinician diagnoses the difficulty, they would clinically explore the platform for a suitable referral. If that individual needs specific treatment, they then can search for a treatment center that clinically matches their diagnosis. A clinically based recovery platform is the goal. We want to give the power back to the professional clinician and support them with the tools to get real results.
Although I am not a behavioral health professional, I am a human being that is extremely passionate about the behavioral health space. I am a human being who has been a patient in this field and recognized, with the help of my partners, real change can occur if the correct tools and systems are put in place. A clinical path platform is what TPN.Health is delivering. I am thrilled to be a part of the change I want to see in the world.
Keep up with the progress of TPN.Health! Subscribe to our mailing list.