Former Long-Term Care Exec Bets on Cannabis Demand in Canadian SNFs

Bruce Dawson-Scully spent years in the long-term care development and operations business in Canada, first in his family business and then as an executive with Sienna Senior Living in Ontario.

In 2013, when the country overhauled its medical marijuana laws to allow commercial production and sales for the first time, Dawson-Scully decided to help launch a company focused, in part, on bringing the drug into the long-term care space.

After a three-year approval process, Dawson-Scully’s company, WeedMD, this fall inked exclusive supply deals with three long-term care providers in Ontario: peopleCare Communities, Arbour Heights and the Belmont Long Term Care Facility, which together have about 1,000 beds throughout the province.

For Dawson-Scully, the transition was grounded in his experience on the operations side of senior living and care: At Regency Care Corporation, the long-term care operator and developer his family founded, management emphasized the “humanization” of aging. For instance, Dawson-Scully said, nurses’ stations were branded “information centers” and the facilities were always deemed “residences.”

“We created this living tapestry and took this holistic approach to care, and we built programs around that — intergenerational programming, partnering with the YMCA and putting in childcare facilities,” Dawson-Scully told SNN.

With medical marijuana, he sees an opportunity to reduce anti-psychotic drug use in nursing homes and other long-term care settings, and curb the overall number of prescriptions seniors take each day.

“Medical cannabis was used and has been used for quite some time…and could treat more indications than had previously been used or tested by doctors,” he said.

Dawson-Scully acknowledged that both the long-term care and medical cannabis industries are highly regulated in Canada, and the Toronto-based WeedMD claims to be the first to reach agreements to supply senior care facilities. Still, the nascent market north of the border remains more accessible than in the United States, where marijuana is legal for medical use in 29 states and the District of Columbia, but remains a federally banned Schedule I drug.

For instance, while some providers such as the Hebrew Home at Riverdale in the Bronx offer cannabis as a treatment, they technically could face headaches related to their Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements by offering a drug the federal government considers illegal.

In Canada, medical cannabis remains largely uninsured, though WeedMD calculates its prices “on a compassionate basis” commensurate to need, Dawson-Scully said. But he still predicts future innovation and acceptance in the space, from new “delivery systems” — currently, Canadian patients can only receive cannabis flour or oils — to more widespread use and insurance coverage. Plus, he said, the allure of the unknown was a major reason he decided to enter the space in the first place.

“It’s not too many times in your life that you get to be part of something so big that’s a new industry, in any country,” Dawson-Scully said.

Written by Alex Spanko

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Alex Spanko
Assistant Editor at Aging Media Network
Alex covers the skilled nursing and reverse mortgage industries for Aging Media. Outside of work, he reads nonfiction, yells at Mets games from his couch, and enjoys pretty much any type of whiskey or scotch — often all at once.

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