The company formerly known as Burlington Labs has a new name: Aspenti Health.
The 140-person company is still in the business of toxicology testing (testing patients’ urine for evidence of drug use) and CEO Chris Powell says the company plans to be an active part of community- and state-level efforts to reduce opioid use in Vermont.
Part of that ethos is captured in the company’s name, Powell said during the announcement in Burlington Monday. Aspen trees, he said, are a symbol of clarity and purpose.
“It is also a community of trees, interconnected in its root system," he said. "In fact, some would say the largest living organism in the world is an aspen grove in Utah, and that aspen road has been around 80,000 years."
The “ti” at the end of the company name represents the note on the musical scale and, specifically for Aspenti, harmony.
Powell said interconnectedness and harmony among different systems involved in solving the opioid crisis will be key, and that includes Aspenti’s drug testing operation.
He said the company has an opportunity to help people when they come in to provide urine samples. To that end, he said, Aspenti Health is working on a redesign of its patient center on Main Street in Burlington.
“There’s an opportunity here for us to reimagine this whole [urine] collection process so that it provides dignity to the patient and helps facilitate recovery and treatment,” Powell said. “That’s what we’re going to do here. We’re talking to some of our partners, around partnering with us to go get grants to help create something that nobody’s seen around patient treatment, and that will be here in Burlington where many of our patients are.”
Powell said one major focus for company officials during the process of taking over Burlington Labs and repairing the company’s finances (which included $6.75 million paid out in a settlement with the state over Medicaid fraud claims) was continuing to provide its services throughout the process.
The new name symbolizes the company’s new leadership — a mix of new and old management — but not any dramatic changes to the landscape of opioid treatment or testing in Vermont. That's because the services provided by the company continued throughout the reorganization.
Another change in the company’s approach is what it plans to do with all of the information it has that is relevant to the state’s ongoing efforts to prevent the harmful effects of opioid use and addiction.
Drug testing has long been used to figure out what individual patients need help with but officials say the data that Aspenti collects through urine samples could also help authorities figure out which drugs are circulating in which communities. It could also help target their efforts and reduce the risks that come when new or especially potent drugs enter a community.
Jill Warrington, the Chief Medical Officer at Aspenti Health, said that could make Aspenti’s work even more helpful to those involved in trying to end Vermont’s opioid crisis.
“So it’s a very powerful means to actually improve the patient’s success in their journey to recovery, but also communities," she said. "And as you can see, I’m sure Mayor Weinberger would also like that information as well."
Indeed, Weinberger said there isn’t a data-sharing agreement yet “but it’s something both sides are very interested in pursuing.”
Disclosures: Aspenti Health provides underwriting support to Vermont Public Radio.
Aspenti Health is a member of the Chittenden County Opioid Alliance. Reporter Taylor Dobbs' fiancee is a staff-member at the alliance.
VPR board member Nicole Ravlin, through her work at People Making Good Public Relations, did publicity work related to Aspenti's news conference.