Chambless Johnston

CEO of East Tennessee Recovery

Chambless Johnston is a renowned doctor who focuses on addiction treatment in Johnston City, Tennessee. He obtained his medical degree from American University of the Caribbean in St. Maarten, before completing his rotations in New York and Los Angeles and doing his Internal Medicine residency at East Tennessee State University.

His interest in addiction treatment started while he was working for the Clinch Valley hospitalist program. Upon finding his passion, Chambless Johnston provided outpatient and continued treatment for those who could greatly benefit from his services.

Later on, he would open one of Tennessee’s largest OBOT’s called East Tennessee Recovery. His practice focuses on an integrated model of treatment that incorporates counseling and primary care.

Where did the idea for East Tennessee Recovery come from?

The idea of East Tennessee Recovery came from my days as the Medical Director of a Hospitalist program. I saw the lack of outpatient clinics in addiction medicine treating the whole patient and the brokenness of the continuum of care. I was waking up every morning around 3-4am thinking about it. I wanted to make a difference in this field and in our Appalachian community. One morning I woke my wife, Emmalea Johnston, up and said, “I have this idea of leaving the hospital and treating people with addiction with integrative care, will you help me?” She said, “l love you and will help you, go back to sleep!” Four years later we have 4 facilities in two states and treat over 2000 patients a month.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

When I started East Tennessee Recovery I was mainly in the clinical setting taking care of patients and helping them rebuild their lives since getting off substances. We treat all addictions but specialize in Opioid Use Disorder. As the company has grown I have moved to the full time CEO role. My role determines and formulates policies and provides overall direction of East Tennessee Recovery. I am heavily involved in the planning, direction, and coordination of day-to-day operations at the highest level of management with the help of assistant executives and staff managers. The productivity of East Tennessee Recovery is being responsible for delivering the best quality of patient care. I have worked hard in creating a positive and productive culture and having a setting that follows standards for operational excellence. I work together with the team to hire and retain qualified staff, implement clinical procedure and policy, and ensure safeguards required for compliance with State, Federal and CMS regulations. It has been fun expanding and developing a relationship with outside organizations, including the medical community, referring physicians, hospitals, and key resource partners.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Put the concept on paper, so you can wrap your mind around it. Research the market. Know who your competitors are. Make your concepts wanted by the patients/clients. You have to invest time, not money….out work everyone else. Start with a small test market and see which way makes you more efficient, then run with it. Work as often as possible, if you are not doing it your neighbors are.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Although you could call it a trend or trends these are really best practices that are being supported by evidence-based medicine. Addiction treatment use to be cookie cutter. It was Inpatient with detox over and over. The patient would relapse and go to the next facility. Addiction treatment is moving to a more comprehensive, individualized treatment. It’s trending to focus on addressing the root cause of addiction and use the biopsychosocial system to get the patient better. We know addiction is a lifelong disease that needs continued treatment. I think East Tennessee Recovery’s integrative model is paving the way for the industry and how it works. We put emphasis on whole improvement, and I feel addiction medicine is trending this way. It’s very exciting.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I learned to multitask on different level than others. I don’t stop moving. I recognize my most creative moments in my day and come up with Plan A. Forget about Plan B, you recognize that Plan A is the only way.

What advice would you give your younger self?

What do I tell my younger self? That’s complicated because God has placed hardships and events to shape, mold, and prepare me for now. I look at life different now because of all those experiences. I’m grateful for them. I guess I would tell myself stay humble but learn not to be humbled to your knees.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Free will does not exist. At least from this human world.

God’s greatest gift is free will. But truly does human nature allow it? Mask mandates, you get the point.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I pray over and over. I pray for guidance. I pray for courage. I pray for wisdom. I pray for understanding. I recommend living spiritually.

From business I recalibrate 3 new goals to accomplish each month.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

East Tennessee Recovery was the first facility to take insurance as an office based opioid treatment center (OBOT) in Tennessee and Virginia. We got to know our patients as if they were family. We offer great customer service and nurture existing patients to rebuild their lives. We connect patients back to jobs, churches, networking events, and get them out of the court system. We give back to our community at every turn. When East Tennessee Recovery enhanced our giving, patients saw it and wanted to participate too. I measure what works and refine my approach as needed. We continue to be the first in many things we are trying to accomplish in the field of Addiction Medicine. We conquer what is thought to be best for Addiction Medicine and make it a reality.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

As an entrepreneur you have to take chances on employees. A lot of times it can be a failure on who you choose to do important jobs within the company. The employee looks great on paper but just is not a good fit in the role you hired them for. The key to overcoming it is knowing when it is time to move on and find the right fit. I believe we continue to find the right people who believe in our vision.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

The business idea is moving addiction treatment to a platform. It doesn’t just stop with having a treatment facility. You have to incorporate housing/transitional living, consistent good paying jobs, and involve the spiritual community. If you solve those four important problems, it will be very valuable.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Hmmm that’s a good one. I would say the best $100 I recently spent was on a great pair On Cloud running shoes. Not only did it help me physically, but it also helps the mind just to go out and leave it all on the trail or at the gym.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

A piece of software that helps us take great care of the patients is our EMR system. Insync EMR has allowed us to customize our work and make us more efficient. If you don’t have the right EMR it could cause huge issues with compliance. I don’t think people outside of the field understand all the compliance that has to be done just to keep the businesses operating to give patients the highest level of care.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Every day a Friday by Joel Osteen.

Who doesn’t like Fridays? Research shows people are happiest on Fridays. My patients use to say to me all the time, “If I just can get to Friday.”

After reading the book I would tell them, “Make every day a Friday.”

I think there a lot of good messages in the book. I’m a very positive person and Joel is as well. Joel believes we need to change our perspective and be thankful for what we do have and to share it with others. We need to have positive attitudes when we go to work, when we deal with members of our family or when we think we are lacking things in our life, such as finding that special someone or paying off debt, or even fighting our addiction and working towards recovery.

What is your favorite quote?

“If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”

Jimmy Valvano

Key Learnings:

• Live spiritually
• Stay humble
• Have 3 new goals to accomplish each month