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Member Practice Profile: J. Ramsay Farah -- Phoenix of Health, LLC

by Shekinah Stevens | Apr 12, 2013

Dr. J. Ramsay Farah, FASAM, runs Phoenix Health Center, a comprehensive outpatient addiction medicine and integrated dual diagnosis and complex pain management services practice in Hagerstown, Maryland. Close to its two year anniversary, Phoenix Health Center serves over 500 patients. ASAM Magazine interviewed Dr. Farah and visited his practice to learn the secrets of his success. 


Dr. J. Ramsay Farah is a certified Physician Executive and Medical Review Officer. He is a Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, American College of Preventive Medicine, American Academy of Pediatrics and the US Federation of Medical Examiners. Dr. Farah is Regional Medical Director, United Healthcare Clinical Services, NE, and Chief Medical Officer, Phoenix of Health and Phoenix Health Center, LLC. He is Region V Director, American Society of Addiction Medicine. He is Board Certified in Pediatrics and a Diplomate of the American Board of Addiction Medicine, recertified. Dr. Farah also chairs the ASAM Council on Bylaws. This month he was nominated to serve as Chair of the new ASAM Development Council.

ASAM Magazine: What type of practice do you run?

Dr. J. Ramsay Farah: We provide comprehensive outpatient addiction medicine and integrated dual diagnosis and complex pain management services. The practice started with professionals and executives referred by physicians, pain clinics and regulatory agencies for evaluation and management of their dependency. With the attainment of OTP Certification (SAMHSA/CSAT), an influx of patients entered as transfers from Methadone clinics. These patients sought services and care that was not provided at their prior clinics. Today the majority of new patients are seeking more flexible and tailored alternatives to the overall management of their addiction problem. 

AM: How long has your practice been open?

JRF: Phoenix of Health LLC founded the Phoenix Health Center May 2011 as a private institute. Dr. Ajaib Sidhu joined me four months later and two months ago, Dr. Mary Jo Cannon joined us as a full time staff member. 

 

Phoenix Health Center is located in Hagerstown, MD.

AM: Can you provide a brief history of the practice and your tenure there? 

JRF: With a ten year experience of serving several Methadone clinics and assisting start up services at Health Departments and private practices, I felt that the profession and the field had suffered enough with restrictions and misconceptions. It was prime time for a comprehensive approach to address a chronic disease with a medical model that encompasses management of every facet with integrity, compassion, evidence-base medicine and psychosocial integration. Starting a new Institute was the solution. The conventional clinics could not provide treatment for dual diagnosis. Consequently, patients had to endure major hassles like referrals and delays in order to receive the needed mental health services. The clinics were sterile and impersonal. The patients reported that they felt they were numbers -- that no one cared -- they were “clients” standing in line, often desolate with nothing to lose. The transition to the medical office and to treating a chronic illness based on a doctor-patient relationship with a robust infrastructure to manage their pain, their social challenges of housing, employment, legal and educational needs, was a paradigm shift. I wanted my patients to have self worth and succeed in recovery. I saw how I could allocate the resources and make a difference. 

 

"It's a jungle out there -- you're safe in here" is the message conveyed at Phoenix Health Center.

AM: What inspired you to focus on addiction medicine?

JRF: My background was pediatrics and epidemiology when I started in health care administration. Serving as Medical Director of Sierra Military Health, Region One, TRICARE, I witnessed a dire shortage of resources in the health care delivery system and a lack of understanding of pain, disabilities and addiction. Our collective communities shunned patients that suffered from societal sub-optimal conditions. I saw our soldiers return home to a war front that was as challenging as the one they left.

AM: What are the major difficulties that you run into with your practice?

JRF: Our first moment of awakening was establishing a team that shared the core values, integrity, commitment and dedication to rise to the "Phoenix” Vision. As with any start-up, finding a team of individuals committed to care, who were intelligent and capable took some time. Once that hurdle was overcome, the training, focus and collective spirit propelled us into a three year CARF accreditation. The CARF accreditation meant that we got it right! And we gained industry standard credibility and recognition.  The handicaps were the paucity of electronic health care software that could integrate running an inventory and pump methadone, dispense Suboxone, Vivitrol, etc., validate eligibility, e-Prescribing, behavioral health management, medical management, lab, billing and produce functional reports in quality initiatives and patient care functions. This continues to be work in progress as we try to achieve “meaningful use” eligibility. 

 

A group room at Phoenix Health Center.

AM: How does your practice handle patients during inclement weather?

JRF: Our center is open Monday through Saturday. We start at 5 AM and have our last group meeting end at 6:30PM. Two Saturdays a month we close at noon. During inclement weather we skeleton staff and provide “take homes”. We have served as the guest dosing referral facility for our neighboring clinics.

AM: How many staff do you employ?

JRF: We have an active volunteer Advisory Board, an Executive Board and 17 staff members. What sets us a cut above the standard expectation is the concept of a “for profit and private” company providing a tangible community service with transparency, a mission-oriented commitment to doing the best for the people who come to us. This exemplary Board is a construct of expert and concerned professionals who share my vision of improving community life; this is a mandate and the next step from “Treating Addiction Saves lives”.

AM: How many patients do you actively treat currently?

JRF: We presently serve over 500 patients. As we approach celebrating our two year anniversary we will be participating with commercial insurance companies to facilitate access to our services. Our insurance participation waiting list of about 50 patients is pending such coverage. Patients find us through referrals from the various agencies and physician offices, word of mouth and through the internet. We have not yet had the opportunity to list our practice in the phone book or advertise. I intend to do so some day. Our main thrust at this time is to continue strengthening the base. Patients seem to have their own way of finding programs like ours that really care about their well being. 

 

A consultation room at Dr. Farah's practice.

AM: How and when did you acquire the knowledge/skills to run your practice?

JRF: The most powerful tool for success in this field is right at our finger tips: ASAM! The initial networking through ASAM conventions and meetings gave me the insight to reach out to our Maryland Chapter MDSAM. I was amazed by the sincerity and genuine collegiality of the core physicians in our organization. The collaboration and mentoring I've experienced is unparalleled to any specialty. I personally could not wait to help my colleagues who reached out to me for expertise as I have personally been the recipient of such support. I am afraid of starting the recognition list as I may miss someone and be ever so distressed at such omission. I owe much to the MDSAM membership and a special thanks and a deed that I will never forget goes to Dr. Sheldon Glass who helped me launch my practice. As for any credibility in this specialty, that rests on the achievement and maintenance of the ABAM certification. You need to know addiction if you really want to make a difference. Every ASAM meeting I go to I learn something new or get a reinforcement of what I knew still stands true. So call me! How can I help?

 

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