People seeking help for mental illness or substance use disorders should feel empowered and supported but not ashamed or embarrassed. There are many organizations dedicated to treating substance use and mental illness but the question remains - to what extent are they effective? And how much can they be trusted?
The answer to these questions is Sovereign Health Group. The company was established in 2009, and has always been a top-drawer provider of evidence-based, high quality and comprehensive addiction, dual diagnosis and mental health treatment networks for adults and adolescents, including support services for families. The company has multiple treatment locations in the United States. Sovereign Health’s programs specialize in addressing underlying mental health conditions with innovative and cutting edge cognitive testing, rehabilitation and evidence-based treatment modalities.
A conversation with Sovereign Health CEO and Founder Tonmoy Sharma
Why was the company started?
I founded Sovereign Health to fulfill a burning desire to provide effective treatment for behavioral health and substance use issues. After years as a researcher in the field, it became clear that precious few behavioral health treatment centers were using the latest evidence-based approaches to treatment, established methods that had been validated in the medical literature.
As our reputation for care spread, Sovereign grew quickly to become one of the premiere networks in the field; the company has carried the Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval since 2013 and continues to score above the national average on Harvard School of Medicine-affiliated McLean Hospital’s eBasis surveys.
What is your company’s vision statement and modus operandi?
Sovereign Health’s motto is “A Better Way to a Better Life.” The reason we stress “a better way” is that most behavioral health treatment programs do not offer the type of evidence-based care that Sovereign does. Our mission is to provide compassionate, comprehensive behavioral health treatment that cares for the whole person, using methods that are science-based and proven to be effective. We are one of the few networks fully accredited to offer comprehensive treatment for dual diagnosis, that is, patients who have both a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder.
What is unique about your company’s treatment model for addiction and mental health disorders?
One of our driving philosophies is that mental illnesses and addiction are brain diseases that constrain people’s lives but do not define them. That is why words such as “addict” and “schizophrenic” are not acceptable – they are stigmatizing terms that neglect the person behind them, the individual who has an illness – just like heart disease or diabetes are illnesses – that is affecting their brains. And like any medical condition, proper, science-based treatment can set people on the path to quality, healthy lives.
Sovereign Health is committed to providing our patients with the best shot at recovery because everyone deserves to live a life free from affliction. If left to progress without treatment, mental health problems and substance use can significantly hinder an individual’s life and alter his or her personality to the point of self-destruction. Our programs aim to break this insidious dynamic and set patients on a path to progressive growth.
How is Sovereign Health using technology to improve processes within the organization and the treatment you provide?
We’ve really set the bar for using the latest technology effectively at all our facilities. One of my favorites is the Patient Information System – or PIMS – which is a great program that houses all our patient-related administrative and clinical data to assure continuity of care and a clear picture of the services we’ve provided. It links the functionality of the multiple clinical and administrative staff who are involved in each patient’s care. Obviously, we rigorously protect sensitive patient data, and limit access to a “need-to-know”basis.
Another terrific electronic resource is Cogtest, an online testing module that provides a battery of tests in crucial neurocognitive domains. Cogtest allows our clinicians to identify depression, bipolar disorder and other major diseases, but in addition – and this is really important – it tests for impairments in cognition, such as memory loss and impulsivity, and for cognitive problems resulting from substance use.
I can’t stress enough the importance of this type of testing in substance use and mental health treatment. Neurological exams rely on the tests we’ve heard of – CT, MRI and others that take images of the brain – Cogtest is a comprehensive tool that can assess actual brain function. Of course, brain imaging is important and can identify damaged or abnormal areas in a patient’s brain, but testing cognition is crucial to devising a good treatment plan.
You see, we need to know early on when a patient has cognitive deficits because these will affect his ability to follow the treatment plan and progress through the process. Once we know what the neurocognitive issues are, we can devise a treatment plan that addresses these along with the patient’s other issues. There are exercises and therapies that can improve and sometimes even resolve cognitive deficits, which must be woven into treatment. Testing and re-testing are vital to continually assess the patient’s cognitive ability and monitor progress throughout care.
The entire battery of the Cogtesting only takes about 40 to 50 minutes and eliminates the messier pencil-and-paper approach. Also, the data immediately enters our system and can be quickly accessed; any worry about data being incorrectly entered is eliminated. The program generates both numeric and graphical reports that are printable and downloadable, and allows for easy comparison of the initial testing and retesting results.
How else is technology helping Sovereign to provide the best treatment available?
Another program we use is the Comprehensive Outcome Measurement and Psychological Assessment Scoring System – COMPASS. And a compass it is! As a compass provides direction, this electronic tool helps our providers to track patient outcomes during treatment and accurately assess their psychological progress. This is imperative in effecting a treatment plan that works.
Tracking data on patient feedback and the outcomes of interventions, and tracking patients’ psychological profile from tests we frequently and periodically administer during treatment is crucial. This allows the provider to compare test results, generate reports and review data on a granular level. This enables the treatment team to identify gaps and areas of improvement while the patient is still under our care.
We have other electronic tools that efficiently help us to manage patient information, repairs at our various facilities, our fleet of vehicles and data on a facility-by-facility basis. These resources allow us to provide data-driven treatment and maintain the high standards we expect from our staff, so our patients have the best chance of a full and lasting recovery.
Meet the CEO
Tonmoy Sharma, CEO of Sovereign Health, has been recognized with numerous awards, honors and grants for his work in advancing mental health and its treatments in the U.S., Europe and Southeast Asia. He is a prolific researcher, scientist and author or co-author of more than 200 published articles and five books on schizophrenia and mental illness.
He has served on several editorial boards, been selected a peer reviewer for 14 international medical journals and served on various advisory boards governing the development of antipsychotics. Sharma helped to found one of the country’s leading recovery and addiction institutions, Sovereign Health, in 2009. With only 1,884 square feet, one patient and eight staff members, Sharma launched the first Sovereign Health facility in San Clemente, California. Sovereign Health has grown to seven treatment centers nationwide and is recognized as among the fastest growing companies in 2014, 2015 and 2016 according to INC Magazine.
“We are committed to providing our patients with the best shot at recovery because everyone deserves to live a life free from affliction.”
"We specialize in treating Alcohol and Drug Use, Dual Diagnosis, Eating Disorders, Trauma, Pain, and much more."