In this one-on-one interview with Behavioral Health Business, Mindpath Health’s CEO, Stephen Farber, discusses the next steps for growth and organizational integration.
Outpatient mental health provider Mindpath Health’s new CEO is prioritizing organizational integration.
Stephen Farber, named CEO in May 2023, said the company’s M&A growth improved its reach and left the door open for more expansion opportunities. But for now, Mindpath Health will zero in on bringing various parts of the organization into a more harmonious whole. Farber succeeded Chris Brengard, who transitioned to a board chairman position.
“It’s a very normal phase 2 of putting together a business where we are a multi-state medical group,” says Farber. “We very much think of ourselves as a medical group.”
Mindpath Health is the product of the merger of two outpatient mental health companies on each coast: Mindpath Care Centers, which was focused on the Southeast Coast, and Community Psychiatry, which was focused on California. The two companies merged in May 2021.
This development phase translates well to Farber’s previous work in health care. The course of his career spans several multi-state companies of various specialties. It also includes work in the payer space. He has primarily served in financial leadership roles. For five years, he was the CFO of Louisville-based Kindred Healthcare (now known as Scion Health), once one of the nation’s largest specialty facility operators.
He was also CFO at MEDNAX, Rural/Metro Corp. and executive vice president of finance and strategy at Multiplan. Most recently, he spent the previous two years before joining Mindpath Health working with various early-stage ventures and startups in the health care and technology industries.
“I’m spending a lot of time on the normal blocking and tackling of stitching everything together and working together as one company as opposed to a number of companies spread across geographies,” Farber said.
His roles at large, diverse companies required him to focus on company strategy and transactions that helped bring a company together or manage a portfolio of business lines. Still, Mindpath Health is different because it’s singularly focused on outpatient mental health.
“I’ve had the good fortune of having the chance to work in a lot of different contexts in health care,” Farber said. “This was something I haven’t done before; there is always the appeal of something new.”
The role of telehealth at Mindpath Health
About three-quarters of Mindpath Health’s visits are conducted via telehealth. It operates 98 locations for in-person services in Arizona, California, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas.
The opportunity to provide in-person services differentiates Mindpath Health from other purely virtual offerings, Farber said.
While the company is seeing an increase in in-person visits, Mindpath is still in line with many of its peers. LifeStance Health Group Inc. (Nasdaq: LFST), the largest outpatient mental health provider in the U.S., saw 73% of all visits in the second quarter of the year and 75% of all visits in the first quarter come from virtual visits.
At Mindpath Health, treatment type and geography have the most bearing on which patients seek in-person treatment, Farber said. Patients receiving psychiatry closer to major population centers are seeing an increase in in-person visits. However, there are market-based quirks about who seeks in-person care and for what reason.
“But we are seeing momentum in that direction; it really depends on a lot of factors,” Farber said.
Due to COVID-era regulations and accommodating payer policies, there has been an uptick in telehealth utilization.
The increased use of telehealth has led to greater overall behavioral health utilization and a corresponding increase in spending.
A RAND Corp. study found that commercial health plan spending on mental health alone was up 54% during the post-COVID phase. The authors of the report speculated that this may lead to payers cutting back on telehealth reimbursement. Aetna, one of the nation’s largest insurers and a part of CVS Health Corp. (NYSE: CVS), told providers it would stop covering dozens of telehealth services.
The growth strategy
Mindpath Health grew to be one of the largest outpatient mental health practices by cobbling together practices of various sizes over the years. Today, the company employs about 1,200 people, about half of whom are clinicians.
However, that growth will take a different direction. The company will focus on its current markets, especially Arizona, Florida, and Texas. Mindpath Health is in earlier stages of development in those states.
“I think we have a lot of opportunities where we currently are,” Farber said. “I really like for growth to be methodical, balanced and paced along with the evolution of the overall platform and the integration of all the different elements that we already have.”
This approach to growth runs parallel to Farber’s focus on better integrating the business and his overall conceptualization of Mindpath Health as a multi-state medical group. This approach will also play into clinician satisfaction, Farber said.
“When I go and speak with our clinicians, they think about the business — and that’s what attracted them to [Mindpath Health] — as a medical group,” Farber said. “We create a peer community for the clinicians. There is a lot of satisfaction that comes from that. It’s not really possible to grow that effectively other than in a methodical, very stepwise, purposeful way.”
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