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Meet Reed Gunnell of Heritage Lane Behavioral Assisted Living in Mesa

Today we’d like to introduce you to Reed Gunnell.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
As a former software engineer, I was destined to work for myself. I’ve always been the type of person who cares for people less fortunate. I like to give. Don’t care to receive. I started several businesses, and the only one that has ever succeeded was the one that aligned closely with my values and life purpose. Those failures helped me learn, and propelled me to create Heritage Lane Behavioral Assisted Living.

I am the original founder of Heritage Lane Behavioral Assisted Living and its successful behavioral model of care. I come with years of experience in post-acute care and behavioral health. As a former nursing home and post-acute care administrator, I have the professional skills to employ, train and manage the right individuals to carry out the important mission at Heritage Lane Behavioral Assisted Living.

It is my passion to care for society’s forgotten who suffer from mental illness and rely on Medicaid to survive. To offer a higher functioning environment whose premise is based on goals and positive reinforcement. I believe in offering a less restrictive environment to all of Arizona residents who have capacity to function at a higher level and are placed in restrictive institutional settings because there is nowhere else to live.

I am also passionate about self-worth and where that comes from. I believe in hard work, sacrifice, trials and learning to overcome. When one is dependent upon others for most things or has debilitating disorders or disease that were beyond self-control, underlying mental health related issues become forefront and the lives of those in support can also be negatively affected.

In contrast, with a little help and guidance, achieving something small, a goal, with little support from others, gives all of us a sense of accomplishment. An increase in will and a desire to repeat it. This is the absolute focus of Heritage Lane’s program and my passion. It drives me to help others to take responsibility for personal happiness and self-worth and watch the progression unfold.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Heritage Lane Behavioral Assisted Living was once a simple geriatric assisted living community that was run into the ground. When I came onboard as an employee, within 6 months there was rumors of closing and being rolled up in a bankruptcy. Hemorrhaging money and risk of all the employees losing their jobs, I had an opportunity to take over the business under dire circumstances. This was enormous personal risk both financially and real lives would be affected by my choices.

The result of the effort and risk, is a model of assisted living care that is extremely unique. So unique there is no assisted living like it in the entire state of Arizona and we’ve never seen it duplicated. In its infancy, being unique also means untested and unproven with little to no outside support. In fact, just the opposite. Hearing how difficult it would be to accomplish such a task not worth it. Listening to all those who claim “It can’t be done.”

Heritage Lane cares for vulnerable adults of Arizona. Adults who have little to no income and rely on state funds to survive. One of the biggest struggles in those early days was to find a way to pay for the behavioral program and model. Relying on state funds also complicated our ability to pay for this program. It was a service, not a product. It was only worth what it claimed to be, because it didn’t exist. There was not history and there was no other company like to compare against. We carved our own path to show the value of the program and prove to the community our program model was improving life quality, meeting the needs of individuals.

It was very difficult financially to survive under these circumstances. When Mr. Gunnell went to the insurance plans that covered residential living for financially and medically qualified adults, he was turned down and sourcing funds for reimbursement was completely closed off. Mr. Gunnell believed in the objective and the idea that a program like this would change lives and reduce cost for the insurance carriers. As a small business, we operated on a very small and tight budget of borrowed funds for the next 2-3 years with a goal of improving lives and our worth as an organization.

We accomplished our objective and we are now considered the standard. When other assisted living companies go to the insurance carriers to contract for reimbursement and claim they meet the needs of mentally ill residents, it is Heritage Lane Behavioral Assisted Living that those new companies are measured against.

Heritage Lane Behavioral Assisted Living – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
For a true perspective, watch the video:

Traditional assisted living offers residential living for those that need assistance with activities of daily living. Such as eating, bathing, dressing, toileting, etc. Things we as healthy individuals take for granted and really don’t think about day to day. When a person reaches old-age or experiences an accident that leaves them physically unable to accomplish these simple tasks, assisted living is a common place to turn. However, it is nearly impossible to find an assisted living community that is capable of providing mental health and behavioral care combined with medical care. Heritage Lane Behavioral Assisted Living provides all of this, and then some. We care for extremely challenging individuals who suffer from complex disorders accompanied with severe medical complications. Individuals who have been suicidal, experience extreme trauma, physically and mentally and have lived through life altering tragedies. We provide medical and mental health care for disorders and diagnosis such as traumatic brain injury, suicidal tendency, bipolar, schizophrenia, paranoia, anxiety, depression and mood, delusional, obsessive compulsive, psychotic, verbally aggressive, court ordered treatment, anorexia, obesity etc. Individuals who suffer from these mental and behavioral challenges often suffer medically from several co-occurring diseases of chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, congestive heart failure, COPD, liver disease, cancer, pain, heart disease, high blood pressure, etc.

To bring this into perspective, think of a psychiatric mental health clinic built right into the assisted living community where residents can speak to a psychiatrist, receive medications, get assistance in taking those medications, speak to a counselor and receive treatment; all services on-demand and never have to go to an outside clinic. As this treatment is being provided, a resident also establishes goals to work toward daily. Goals such as keeping up with hygiene, staying active, doing laundry, cleaning their room, exercise, working in the community, etc.
All of these in-house provided services improve life quality, improve self-worth, reduce hospitalizations and reduce excessive medical cost and produce an opportunity for an individual to function at a higher level and become an active member of their community.

If not for Heritage Lane Behavioral Assisted Living, many of our residents would be homeless, living in nursing homes, or worse in locked psychiatric units with little to no hope for a life of higher function and community contribution.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
The proudest moment of my career happens every day. Watching my employees give so much of their lives to the lives of our residents and seeing everything work together to give people a better chance at life. The change process begins within 60 days of admission to the community. To watch a resident who had been for decades living an institutional life, in and out of hospitals, relying on others for everything, now become a true contributor to the community in which they live. To watch them take personal responsibility from the moment they wake up every day and for some, move on to living independently.

Heritage Lane Behavioral Assisted Living partners with non-profit organizations such as the Mesa Child Crisis Center to delivery thousands of needed items from clothing to diapers. The residents of the community manage this donation drive. They engage the outside community through Facebook and social media outlets to help suffering children in need. They deliver the donated items to the kids and participate in the giving process. There are many other things our community residents do and watching this all happen is simply an amazing thing to live for. I am proud of employees, our important mission, and see it working every day for real underprivileged people.

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