You’d probably be surprised to learn that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness with nearly one person dying from an eating disorder every hour. In fact, more than 30MM Americans will suffer from an eating disorder in their lifetime. Eating Recovery Center (ERC) is one of the only national health care systems dedicated to the treatment of serious eating and related disorders at all levels of severity and stages of the illness.
Founded in October 2008 by Drs Ken Weiner and Emmet Bishop, ERC has led the industry in clinical experience and thought leadership, combining evidence-based treatment and innovation to create a renowned center of excellence for treating eating disorders.
With more than 20 programs in seven states, Eating Recovery Center (ERC) is an international center for eating disorders recovery providing comprehensive treatment for anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, ARFID and other unspecified eating disorders.
A Conversation with the Specialist: Ken Weiner, MD, Founding Partner and CEO
Why was the company set up?
I recognized a fundamental flaw in how eating disorder services were being delivered. Fragmented and uncoordinated care resulted in sub-optimal outcomes and wasted resources. I saw the need for a fully integrated solution, one that was designed to specifically meet the complex needs of eating disorder patients. So, instead of trying to fit patients into a limited treatment offering, this solution would offer everything they need for comprehensive, individual care and recovery.
Evergreen was our first facility with multiple levels of care. We began with 12 inpatient hospital beds and 12 partial hospitalization (PHP) slots on one floor. Evergreen was a microcosm of what we would become; we now have 200 inpatient/residential beds and 396 PHP slots. In addition to our treatment approach, we knew that we needed the very best people to succeed. Because there is very little evidence-based medicine in the world of eating disorders, having the best minds with the most experience was critical to our success.
How successful was your first project roll on?
ERC was very successful. We opened the doors 10/21/2008 about 5 weeks after Lehman Brothers went under. We were profitable on an accrual basis 45 days later.
How has feedback from your patients motivated you to shape the growth of the company?
The growth of the company has been driven by a large supply demand imbalance in providing treatment for eating disorders. Our success has been achieved not only through our dedication to leading the field in providing the best treatment, but also our focus on being patient-centric. We routinely survey patients pre and post care, as well as families, who play a critical role in ongoing recovery, and use this feedback to improve the patient experience on an ongoing basis.
How big your organization is today?
ERC has 1,100 employees at multiple locations in seven states. In addition to our national thought leaders, we employ more than 80 MDs/PhDs.
Individuals that have played key roles in shaping your organization’s road map?
Richard Kraus, our chairman, has played a critical role with executing our growth plan and defining our culture. Dr Bishop, Dr Craig Johnson and Dr Ovidio Bermudez defined our treatment philosophy and continue to improve our treatment model using our outcomes research findings. Dr Philip Mehler has provided clinical leadership in growing our national medical team, integrating our efforts with the ACUTE program at Denver Health and publishing over 400 articles as the leading expert in the medical complications of eating disorders.
What were the grounds on which you have expanded your company and its offerings over the years?
The fundamental piece is the supply and demand imbalance in the world of treating eating disorders. A study at the end of 2014 by an investment bank concluded that for every 1 million US residents there are 2,913 acute medical/surgical beds, for every 1 million people diagnosed with a nervous/mental disorder there are 1,400 psychiatric beds available and for every 1 million people diagnosed with an eating disorder there are only 224 beds eating disorder beds available.
Healthy Habits, Healthy Clients
“I left ERC a completely different person. I haven’t had one slip, or binge or purge since the day I walked in there, November 12th of 2014. It was a great experience. It literally saved my life.”- Alexandra, 27
“I felt like people at ERC cared about me, and not just what I did. They really were concerned about who I was as a person. They loved me until I could love myself again.”- Kelli, 49
Meet the Master
Ken Weiner, MD, CEDS, FAED: Founding Partner and CEO: Ken Weiner has been active in the treatment of eating disorders in Denver for more than 35years. Recognized as a national expert in the treatment of eating disorders, Ken lectures extensively in the United States. He created and directed Columbine Psychiatric Center Eating Disorders Program from 1988-1992, Bethesda Eating Disorder Program from 1992-1998 and Eating Disorder Center of Denver from 2001-2007. Eating Recovery Center was established October 2008 in Denver, Colorado as a joint effort with colleague Dr. Emmett Bishop.
Dr. Weiner was named EY Regional Entrepreneur of the Year in 2013. He is Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University Of Colorado School Of Medicine and has received the prestigious Gold Apple Teaching Award from the medical school and The Best Teacher Award from the Psychiatric Residency Training Program (2007). He has been named a Fellow of the Academy of Eating Disorders, a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, and received the National Eating Disorders Award (2006) for co-founding the Eating Disorders Foundation in Colorado.