T'18

Steve Kelly

Cofounder and COO, Better Life Partners

We are reaching an underserved population that has been failed by the health system.

BY ALINA DIZIK

When Steve Kelly T’18 met Tuck adjunct professor Adam Groff D’99, an MD, he quickly realized they saw eye-to-eye on some of the country’s most pressing issues, including the opioid crisis. Talking to Groff helped Kelly, whose family has been impacted by the epidemic, to understand how he could make an impact. He and I sort of met through class, and we hit it off, Kelly recalls. I was the nerdy one who stayed late after class.

Months later, the persistence paid off.

As cofounders of Boston-based Better Life Partners, Groff and Kelly are focused on providing same-day treatment for opioid use disorder by tapping into a network of community organizations. The teams work to administer services in church basements, homeless shelters, and other areas where this type of care is needed yet traditionally unavailable.

By staffing doctors and other health-care professionals in nontraditional environments, it helps patients avoid the stigma and the additional hurdles of visiting a medical office. We go to where the people are, says Kelly who serves as the chief operating officer for the community health startup. We are reaching a population that either can’t get to a clinic or is stigmatized as soon as they walk inside the door.

The strategy is working.

Internal tracking shows that more than 70 percent of Better Life’s patients continue therapy, including medication, which is more than double the national average. The company launched in 2018 and now provides services in New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Maine—all states that have had a huge uptick in demand since the pandemic, when opioid overdoses soared. The offering targets Medicaid recipients and has had to adapt to new rules in telehealth. We are reaching an underserved population that has been failed by the health system, says Kelly who attributes his success to his 10-year tour as a U.S. Navy officer, where he specialized in global logistics and operations.

Kelly, who initially launched the company in Hanover, says being part of Tuck’s entrepreneurial ecosystem also made it easier to succeed. We benefited from the tight knit community among classmates when it came to raising money—it’s great to be able to have those conversations, he says. Liam Donohue T’95 cofounder of .406 Ventures is an investor and serves on the company’s board.

Next up, Better Life Partners is focusing on the underlying issues that sometimes come before substance abuse and addiction by introducing more mental health offerings and a Responsive Care program to treat various health conditions. Many of the company’s patients do not have a primary care physician and go without access to basic health services. We’ve started to go beyond substance use care, says Kelly. We are now treating co-occurring mental health disorders and underlying depression and anxiety, and adverse childhood experiences and trauma.

This story originally appeared in print in the winter 2023 issue of Tuck Today magazine. Read the full article Meet the Next Generation of Tuck Founders.”

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