Jul 21, 2020
Martin Schappell spent 15 years as a leader at Universal Health Services (the
largest inpatient psychiatric hospital operator in the United
States) as a Senior Vice President in the Behavioral segment. He
joins us to talk about the behavioral health care industry, how
care has evolved over the last 30 years, and the impacts of our
current climate on the mental health of the seniors in our
In this episode we talked at length about why behavioral
healthcare has changed so much, what is good about those changes as
well as what is bad. We also discussed where the opportunity
is for entrepreneurs in this space.
Martin now serves as president and CEO of Shell Point Retirement
Community where he has been for the last 4 years. Shell Point
is the second largest single site senior living community in the
United States with 2,500 residents and 1,200 employees in
Florida. Martin’s behavioral health care industry experience
and his firsthand knowledge from operating Shell Point give him
unique insights into the mounting mental health differences
Links mentioned in the show: Universal Health Services, Shell Point Retirement
HERE ARE SOME OF THE THINGS WE TALKED
- Martin shares observations from his career which began as a
licensed marriage counselor, and eventually led him to behavioral
health care hospital management and into senior management at one
of the largest providers in the country.
- Martin talks about how he believes he was really wired for
“business” versus being a “clinician” but that his clinical
training made him a great leader. He told me that learning about
people, their motivation, understanding mental illness, etc. has
influenced his leadership style.
- As Martin transitioned from the non-profit clinical world to
Charter Behavioral Health, he transitioned into a business
management role. Eventually, Charter failed, and sold hospitals to
UHS in bankruptcy during 2000. That led Martin to land at UHS
where he served as a Senior Vice President in the Behavioral
- The delivery of behavioral health care has evolved greatly over
the last 30 years. Delivery has become more efficient. 30
years ago, it was very common for people to be hospitalized for 3
months at a time for acute mental health problems. Now it’s
more common to be hospitalized for 3 days or less at a time.
The industry has prioritized efficiency over individualized care as
the reimbursement model has shifted over the years and while here
are positive consequences on system capacity, there are negative
consequences on the quality of individualized care as well.
- We talked about the natural evolution that a person
goes through during treatment and how this process takes
time. It’s a very personal and individual process that is different
for everyone. So at some point, standardization is not in the
best interest of the people this system is trying to help.
Everyone’s pace may be a bit different. But to accelerate
that beyond someone’s ability to gain insight is rushing the
What drove this duration change?
Some of this
is because of the cost of treatment – we reduced length to reduce
cost. We are automating, and standardizing treatment when it
is a very individual thing. Therapy is by design, a very
inefficient process so it is not going to be possible to
standardize it for everyone.
- We talked about the Art versus the Science of recovery
and treatment. We got into the balance between the two
concepts and how getting that balance right leads to a highly
individualized level of care which the modern-day system is leaning
- Where is the greatest opportunity for entrepreneurs in
the mental health startup landscape? We talked at
length about this. Martin was clear that his top priority is around
testing and measurement. He explains that we need to find solutions
that standardize the assessment, diagnosis, and validation of
diagnosis in the early days of treatment. Often times, due to
a lack of accurate testing, we misdiagnose and then establish a
treatment plan that does not work leading to years of bad
experiences and an unhealthy human.
- We spent time talking about senior mental health
care and how seniors are disproportionately being driven
into self-isolation and loneliness during this time of COVID. There
are consequences to that isolation and withdrawal. Ove the
next 6-12 months we will likely see an escalation of mental health
issues in seniors as a result and we talked about what we can be
doing about it since we know we can predict it.
Connect with the Stigma Podcast in the following
ways: Patreon Page,
Website, Twitter, Facebook,
Connect with host Stephen Hays here: Stephen Hays Personal Website,
What If Ventures (Mental Health