CEO Unplugged Interview with Andre Basso

Mountainside CEO, Andre Basso, sits down with Z100’s Skeery Jones for a segment called ‘CEO Unplugged’. Originally recorded by Z100, Andre provides and in-depth discussion on Mountainside’s services, and our role in the community on combatting addiction.


Skeery Jones: And welcome to another edition of CEO Unplugged. I’m Skeery Jones from Elvis Duran and the Morning Show hanging out with Andre Basso. I hope I pronounced that properly. Is that right? Is it Basso?

Andre Basso: Yes, it’s Basso. It’s Italian!

Skeery Jones: A nice Italian guy right here! Andre is the CEO of Mountainside treatment center. We’re going to get into that in just a second. First of all, welcome to CEO Unplugged. I love this series because we get to see and hear from the tastemakers themselves. You’re a tastemaker, did you know that?

Andre Basso: Alright; I didn’t know that, but I’m happy that I’m on your list!

Skeery Jones: Well, I mean, you’re a leader, you know, and there’s a lot of people that actually watch this series also that want to know. They may be an entrepreneur, they may want to be a CEO of a company and they want to know what it takes and how you got there and how you got your start. So first of all, before we go any further, how did you get into this profession?

Andre Basso: Well I’m Brazilian, so I worked in Brazil for a long time with different opportunities and different industries. I was a consultant for a long time and that was how I met the founder of Mountainside treatment center, and he invited me to come to the U.S. and help the business to grow. Basically, he told me well, we have a lot of people that we need to help to get rid of addiction and have a better life, and that’s something that motivated me very much.

Skeery Jones: Right on.

Andre Basso: So, I moved to the US in 2017.

Skeery Jones: Okay, and then you just joined Mountainside shortly after that?

Andre Basso: Yeah; I came for this job. Yes.

Skeery Jones: Wow, okay, that’s a bold statement right there. You actually moved out of your country because you had this passion about Mountainside?

Andre Basso: Yes. I think that the mission and the purpose of a company like this is really unique. It’s really helping people to be happier and healthier, and that’s something that for me, especially from my background, was a kind of life mission for me.

Skeery Jones: Sure!

Andre Basso: It’s something that I want to do.

Skeery Jones: Well, let’s break it down for people who don’t even know. Why don’t we start from the beginning: what is Mountainside? Explain to everybody what can be done there and what people would use Mountainside treatment center for.

Andre Basso: So, Mountainside is an alcohol and drug addiction treatment center here in Connecticut. Connecticut is our detox and our inpatient services, and we also have Outpatient Services in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York. We are a leading company in the industry in terms of quality and innovation for treatment. We have been at the White House, showing the White House what we do, and in the past how innovative [our program] was, and today we are one of three companies in the country to be tri-accredited with a 3.7 [level of care certification from the] American Society of Addiction Medicine as well as CARF and TJC. That’s very important for us because the accreditation shows from a very concrete perspective the quality of how seriously we take the addiction and behavioral health treatment that we provide.

Skeery Jones: Congratulations, by the way, because that is not an easy feat to be where you guys are; you guys are at like the top of the mountain.

Andre Basso: Yes, right; we are very proud of that and our mission statement also states that our purpose is to raise the bar in addiction treatment, so that’s what we strive to do. We really try to find innovative ways and evidence-based treatment also with outcomes, using our alumni history that are going to drive more effective, more efficient, and more sustainable treatment for our clients.

Skeery Jones: Yes, you know, you guys obviously had to make adjustments like everyone else this past year. You know Covid-19 has changed everything. So, how has that impacted what you guys do at Mountainside and the people that you serve?

Andre Basso: Well, I think that most importantly, it affected society very much. So, The Kaiser Family Foundation published a survey that showed that 40 percent of people in the United States had signs of increased anxiety and depression in February this year. So, after a year, almost a year and a half, of quarantining and isolation and not being able to exercise the tools that we had at our disposal in the past to alleviate the pressure, people are breaking down and burning out. And that’s also showing in the increase in opioid overdoses that we saw in more than 40 states in the U.S. throughout the pandemic.

So, a lot of people need help. We saw an increase in alcohol use and we saw an increase also in stimulants. Methamphetamine, for example, and cocaine are going high again in terms of use. From our perspective, what we had to do, we had to adjust our procedures, even our infrastructure, in terms of number of the rooms, how we received the client here, precautions in terms of PCR testing and Antigen testing so we can keep our community safe, our staff safe, our clients safe while we deliver the proper care that they need. We also have addressed how people should take care of themselves, not only for our clients, of course, but our staff. We had to talk to staff in terms of vaccination precautions, how to be careful and continue to live their life, and adjust the company very quickly to be a telehealth provider for our clients. I’m very happy to see that now we have very flexible telehealth tools available not only to our clients but to anybody that wants to attend free virtual groups; so, it was a lot of change at a very fast pace.

Skeery Jones: Right; why don’t you explain a little bit about telehealth and what that means. I mean obviously not much different from what we’re doing right here; we’re on a Zoom call, correct?

Andre Basso: Yes, well, I think that telehealth for behavioral health is a turning point in terms of services provided to society. When you talk about behavioral health and mental health issues, there’s a stigma around it, so people don’t discuss that very openly. I don’t know if you have kids. I have kids and if my kid needs help because they have, I don’t know, a pain in the shoulder because they were playing soccer or football, and they heard you talk to your friend: “Hey, my kid has a pain in the shoulder; do you know of any doctor or any treatment?” But if my kid has a mental health or behavioral health issue, I usually don’t talk that much; I’m not that open to discussing the situation, so my ability to reach out to resources is greatly diminished.

Skeery Jones: But why is that? Why does our country treat mental health differently than physical health? There’s a clear difference in how that’s handled, right? Or is it because of the way a person feels inside?

Andre Basso: I think the stigma also creates a kind of a shame: did the family fail? Did the person fail? Did I fail as a dad? There are a lot of emotions included in that. Basically, addiction tears apart the family and the relationships, and people really don’t know how to approach it. There’s also a misunderstanding in society right now, despite the improvement in recent years, but people think that well, if you are drinking too much, just try to control yourself.

Skeery Jones: It’s not that easy!

Andre Basso: Yes! So, it’s people thinking it’s more like a willpower thing instead of addiction as a disease. We already know through science that addiction is ingrained in your brain and rewires your brain in a way that’s not easy to undo because it’s a disease. It’s a situation where you need help and thank god, and thanks to science, we have medication-assisted treatment that is helping the process to be more treatment-driven, client-driven, than stigmatized by society.

Skeery Jones: It sounds like Mountainside has a way of identifying and working with and actually helping people based on their personal life, like a personalized situation. Because you can’t just throw something over and say, “Okay, this is all blanketed as this is mental health, this is physical health.” Everyone has their own individual way and obviously you guys are well-equipped to handle when somebody comes in. I want to get into that; could you explain to me what someone can expect when they go in? Let’s say they’re receiving treatment for alcoholism or even drug addiction.

Andre Basso: Usually the first step is a kind of detoxification, and depending on the drug use, or if it’s alcohol or cocaine or heroin, or any other drug, then the kind of drug and the frequency of use is going to dictate the individualized approach that the company is going to deliver, that Mountainside is going to apply for that specific individual. Of course, we have medical protocols and there’s evidence-based treatments that we’re going to use, but everything is catered to that specific person. So there’s a detoxification period. It’s a…medical process that’s going to help the person to get rid of the toxins and the effects of that drug that is bringing the person to treatment.

After three to seven days, usually, of detoxification, the person then goes to what we call a clinical, more inpatient treatment. In the clinical stage that we sometimes call “residential,” that’s usually the phase of treatment that you see when people talk about “rehab.” That’s the kind of treatment that we’re talking about; we try to provide clinical services tailored to that individual to address not only the addiction, but co-occurring disorders. [Those services] are going to help them rebuild their skills in how they connect to other people, how they connect to society, how they cope with their anxiety/trauma history, or any other situation that could be in the way of having a happier and healthier life. Throughout this process that usually takes 30 to 45 days – and the longer the better – we also embed and process wellness offerings that are going to help you rebuild your ability to be happier and healthier without the drug. Because basically, [for] a person that has an addiction, all the happiness that the person is trying to seek comes from the drug.

Skeery Jones: So there’s a multi-layer approach here, from the physical and then mental health. I’m trying to understand; so a program could last how long? You said 30 to 45 days?

Andre Basso: After residential or after the clinical approach, then it [the program] starts what we call outpatient [and] you go back to your life.

Skeery Jones: Right.

Andre Basso: Usually, you should be keeping the appointments to talk about the process of rehabilitation and after that, you can go for structured sober living that’s going to help you rebuild your professional skills. You can go for recovery coaching, a peer-to-peer approach. It’s a coach to help you throughout your daily challenges, to cope with that.

Skeery Jones: Yeah.

Andre Basso: We can also have telehealth and virtual groups. So basically, Skeery, the longer you stay connected to some kind of tool, the better outcome you are going to have in your recovery. So, ideally, 365 days would bring you close to a 90 percent chance of never having an addiction situation again, if you are really dedicated, if you have good treatment, if you have good professional support. The longer you stay on the path, the better for you. But addiction, again, [means] a lifelong recovery, so once your brain is rewired with drug use, you are never going to have the brain free from addiction again. So, you need to understand how to evolve and engage in a new way of life that’s going to bring you happiness and health without the drug use.

Skeery Jones: Now, if someone is thinking about something like this, how does somebody, how do they go about choosing a reputable treatment center? Maybe Mountainside is not accessible to them, or maybe it is, but what would a person look for in a reputable treatment center overall?

Andre Basso: Well, first I think that [it’s] very important to check if the rehab location or the company is able to show you accreditations; not because the accreditation is the main objective here, but if you are accredited, it shows that you were exposed to somebody to check you. So, if you were willing to open your door to be checked, [it shows] “Okay, I can prove what I’m saying.”

Skeery Jones: By a third party. A third party comes in and makes sure. I understand – that’s accredited.

Andre Basso: But that’s important; I think that the clinical and medical experience of the team that’s going to treat you or treat your loved one, that’s very important. If the company that you are trying to use is able to show you the expertise and qualifications that are better for you, I think that programming is very important, so you can have a very good glimpse in terms of what is the program going to show me or provide my loved one. “Is that going to be conducive to the treatment that I expect?” That’s also important, and finally, I think that it is crucial that people look at the reputation or the satisfaction [scores]. And nowadays, we have a lot of tools for that, so you can check different sites: Google reviews, Facebook reviews. And I think that the more transparent, the better.

Skeery Jones: Absolutely. There’s a saying that “addiction is a family disease,” so what help is there for families? Because it’s not just the person being affected but it’s the people in their world.

 Andre Basso: Once we have an addiction situation, that situation contaminates everything: all the relationships, the family relationships, work relationships. And it’s important also to provide support to the family. At Mountainside, we provide Family Wellness groups. We have workshops, we have seminars, we have groups specifically for that – even telehealth groups, virtual groups. And that’s crucial not only to help the family but also the person that’s in treatment so they can connect in a healthier way. When we say “healthy” way, it is not only to be more tolerant, more understanding. It’s also to hold firmer boundaries sometimes.

Skeery Jones: Wow, this has really been super informative, I have to say. I did want to ask you one thing though regarding being a CEO [and] coming from Brazil. You stepped into some huge shoes at Mountainside. If somebody is going down this road in the world that you followed, how do they get there? What is your advice? What’s your best advice for people in this industry that want to become a leader like yourself?

Andre Basso: I think that leadership is not something where you follow a recipe, is it? I think that and you know that: “How can I be a successful radio entrepreneur?” It’s not that simple, but I think that the main point here, and I’m talking about my experience, is I think that you have to identify what your mission in life is. I chose to help people, so what drives me every day and in previous jobs and in this job especially is I want to be a good person, and I want to help people. I think that that drives me and that creates the grip that I use in my day-to-day life. I think that if that’s going to give you the opportunity to be a leader, that’s a different situation, but I think that everything that you do with your whole heart is going to give you leverage to be on the front line, to be advocating for change. And I think that all these situations are going to inevitably give you the opportunity to shine, and you should go for that.

Skeery Jones: Absolutely; so more than just a paycheck in life; if you’re motivated by other things, it’s something where you want to be a good person, then there’s your calling right there, and that’s some good advice.

Andre Basso: Yeah, because everybody wants to be the leader. Everybody wants the CEO to be successful.

Skeery Jones: Right. Sometimes people just want to be the boss, but the answer you gave is so important because you’re driven by other things, not just “I want to have the power” or anything like that, so that’s fantastic. This has really been eye-opening. I appreciate your time here. If people want to get in touch with you guys, maybe check out Mountainside, what’s the website and anything else you’d like to share with our audience.

Andre Basso: Yes, our website is www.mountainside.com. We are available on social media as well. And what I really want to stress is: addiction can’t wait, and I think that sometimes [for] the families and the loved ones, it’s kind of “I don’t know what to do. Well, maybe I should look for help, but I don’t know where I should look for help.” Please don’t wait. It’s very important to address the situation as early as you can, and Mountainside is here to help. We have other good companies in the field as well, but Mountainside is here to help you, so please reach out.

Skeery Jones: Andre Basso, thank you so much for spending some time today. I know you’ve got a very busy schedule; you took some time to be here. He’s the CEO of Mountainside treatment center. Get in touch with them. Until next time, I’m Skeery Jones and we want to thank you for watching CEO Unplugged!

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