NewLife Logo Final

Business Startup Success During COVID – The New Life Story

  |   News   |   No comment

Launching a successful business startup is difficult during the best of times. Grey Matter Direct client New Life Medical Addiction Services is a business startup that did it during the height of the COVID pandemic and has come out the other side of that period roaring into the future. How did they defy the odds?

The New Life story began in 2017 when partners Dr. Joe Savon and Joel Albano decided to build a new kind of addiction treatment center that would change the way that people engage in recovery from addiction to alcohol and drugs. The center was launched through self-funding and an initial angel investment seed round from close friends and family. Then, the hard work began.

Dr. Joe Savon, New Life's Medical Director/ Co-Founder

Dr. Joe Savon, New Life’s Medical Director/ Co-Founder

New Jersey is one of the most heavily regulated states and there are many steps involved in launching an addiction treatment center. Central to the viability of New Life are the licenses, credentials, and accreditations that Dr. Joe Savon holds.

Dr. Savon received his Bachelor of Science in biology from St. Joseph’s University and his medical degree at UMDNJ – Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. After completing his internal medicine residency at Thomas Jefferson University, and his gastroenterology fellowship at Penn Presbyterian Hospital in Philadelphia, Dr. Savon went on to become an esteemed gastroenterologist in Marlton, New Jersey. He is Board Certified by the American Board of Preventive Medicine in the Subspecialty of Addiction Medicine, the American Board of Addiction Medicine, and the American Board of Internal Medicine in the Subspecialty of Gastroenterology. Dr. Savon is also on the AmeriHealth Physicians Advisory Committee and is a Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

Dr. Joe is one of the co-founders at the Endocenter at Voorhees, one of the busiest and highest quality Gastrointestinal Endoscopy centers in the nation and is certified by the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care.

At the Endocenter, Dr. Savon has performed nearly 50,000 medical procedures and he is one of 28 doctors at Virtua Healthcare System who specialize in Gastroenterology. As a result of his incredible focus on patient care and dedication to excellence in medicine, Dr. Savon has been recognized as a New Jersey Top Doc once again in 2022 – that’s 6 years straight! Dr. Joe is also a partner at South Jersey Gastroenterology.

Joe’s background and accomplishments are what allowed New Life as a business startup to secure the licenses to operate in the incredibly competitive New Jersey market. But even this licensure process was difficult and time consuming.

“Even though we raised our initial capital in 2017, we were still not allowed to open our facility. While the  government reviewed our license application, we were required to have our director of nursing, director of counseling, and other critical positions for our application even to move forward. The expense involved in these initial hires with no patient flow means that you need to have very deep pockets to even be able to start a business like this.” Said Joe.

Click here to watch our interview with Dr. Savon.

In August of 2019, New Life finally received its facilities license. That started the ball rolling and in December of 2019 they started seeing significant patient flow. Then, in February of 2020 COVID hit and patient volume declined to almost zero. “People were terrified of medical office settings during the early confusion of the pandemic,” said Joe.

With huge staffing and facility costs and almost no patients due to government edicts on social distancing and PPE, Joe and Joel rapidly switched to a telehealth model. Although in-person addiction treatment is generally preferable to telehealth, they were able to reach and help a significant number of remote patients in need.

All during 2020 and into 2021, business was tough and New Life was losing money. Then, starting in 2022, all aspects of the business started to improve, especially patient volumes, which are the direct driver of revenue.

The business startup path was difficult, but the New Life Team persevered, and they have arrived at this point stronger, and battle tested. “Being a business startup, I don’t think that there is anything that could be thrown at us like what we experienced in the period between 2019 and 2021, but since we survived COVID I think we can survive anything.” Said Joel Albano, Joe’s partner and New Life’s Chief Administration Officer.

When we asked Joe to reflect on this period he said “Frankly, I can’t believe we’re still in business. If we had failed during COVID I think the human toll would have been significant”.

Joe is referring to the great success that New Life’s patients have experienced with their outpatient approach to addiction treatment and management. Most people are familiar with 30-day inpatient treatment centers for alcohol and drug addiction where the patients stay away from their jobs and families and receive treatment in a spa-like setting.

Joel albano new life client appreciation night 1

Joel Albano, New Life’s Chief Administration Officer & Co-Founder, speaking at New Life’s Client Appreciation Night

New Life’s outpatient model also offers a wonderful and comfortable setting for patients to receive treatment, but the new twist is that they can go home at night to their homes and families. By not requiring patients to attend expensive, 30-day inpatient treatment centers, the intense and local nature of the treatment at New Life has produced very positive patient outcomes and long-term recovery and sobriety for many of them.

New Life likes to call this new approach to addiction treatment “DayTox”. Patients detox and recover with medical supervision in a comfortable environment during the day, then rest at home at night. This is a revolution in treatment that is disrupting the entire substance abuse treatment industry. “Everyone loves this model. From insurance programs who appreciate the lower cost to employers and unions who can now provide local treatment to their employees and members,” said Joe.

New Life has also met with New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and Congressman Andy Kim who are impressed with the care that New Life is able to provide to underserved communities. Due to its unique model, New Life is able to provide the same, first-rate treatment to all patients. While New Life accepts Horizon Blue Cross/Blue Shield, United Healthcare, and other insurance plans, it also accepts Medicaid, which many other treatment centers will not. Because of this there are no other Medicaid addiction treatment centers with as many 5-Star Google reviews as New Life.

Dr. Joe also reflected on what the toll might have been if they had shut down during COVID. “Of the 145 graduates from the New Life Program, how many would be dead is we had gone out of business during COVID?” asked Joe.  The stats say that 15%, or 20 people wouldn’t be here. Not only are they alive they are working, spending time with their families and living life.