Amid the Great Resignation, employers are striving to support their employees in various ways. Mental health concerns have risen during the pandemic, which has created a need for employers to support the mental health of their employees. These times have been especially difficult for parents in the workplace. These mental health concerns are not only affecting them but also their children. In an attempt to help the entire family and ease the burden on the working parents, employers are increasingly interested in behavioral health benefits that are family-focused. Brightline has been in the spotlight for providing behavioral health care that is specifically designed for children, and they have recently published a guide for supporting the mental health of employees with kids. We spoke with CEO Naomi Allen about the importance of family-focused behavioral health benefits.
Why do kids and teens need care specifically designed for youth?
Kids aren’t just small adults! When it comes to behavioral and mental health, you really can’t just replicate what’s been built for adults and have it work for kids and teens. What’s going to work for you as a parent at 35 or 50 years old just isn’t right for a 3 or 15 year old. It seems obvious, but to do it right takes a lot of factors and designing specifically to work for each age range. So even from the start, you need to consider that the way kids present with behavioral and mental health issues is different, and how to address that — for example, depression in kids can often show up as irritability. Kids and teens confront different issues, and respond to therapeutic interventions differently. Managing tantrums, developing organizational skills for school, coping with teen’s self-esteem or tough stuff with friends — you need to be able to really meet kids and teens at their level, and tailor interventions to work for where they’re at in that moment, emotionally and developmentally.
Here’s a good example of what that could look like: you may have a middle schooler who is feeling worried lately as schools are shutting down again, and is having trouble sleeping. At Brightline, we would assess where that child is, and if their anxiety meets a clinical level of need. If so, we can get them started with a therapist to work through those worries, build coping strategies, and address the impact on their sleep. But maybe their anxious thoughts don’t hit a clinical level of need — in that case, we can get them into our “Sleep Made Simple” coaching programs to build skills for tackling the anxiety and related sleep issues, alongside self-guided content with their parent or caregiver.
This is exactly why Brightline isn’t adapted for kids, it’s built for kids. Everything we do is flexible and designed specifically to work for children and families — meeting them where they are emotionally, developmentally, and literally bringing it to them with virtual care. By engaging parents and caregivers in their child’s care, giving them access to progress updates and regular check-ins, they are supported and know how their child is progressing forward. Our coaching programs, therapy, evaluation and medication support, speech therapy, and ongoing support and resources for parents and caregivers alongside their kids, and for teens, in our digital platform — we’ve designed it truly to work for them.
How does pediatric behavioral health benefits support working parents and their families?
For working parents and caregivers, juggling the demands of a full-time job and the complexities of seeking care for their child can feel completely overwhelming. Rates of behavioral and mental health needs among youth are skyrocketing. Parents and caregivers themselves are suffering too: more than half (59%) say they’ve experienced their own behavioral health challenges due to the stress of managing their children’s behavioral health needs.
This isn’t going away — we expect that the pandemic will have lasting impacts on mental health, and we need to get out ahead of this and support families so they don’t have to make the difficult decision to leave the workforce. We can meaningfully support parents and caregivers by giving them access to comprehensive behavioral health care for their children, through virtual care, coaching, and self-guided content — so that they can access what they need, when they need it.
We’ve felt this in our own company. The majority of our executive leaders, and many others on our team, are also parents to children under the age of 18 — some of whom have significant behavioral health needs. For many of our kids, those needs have been exacerbated during COVID. The ongoing uncertainty and changes during the pandemic have made it incredibly difficult to balance this all — some of us have had to cut back, or in past lives before Brightline, had to quit jobs to care for our kids. This shouldn’t be a decision parents have to make, yet it’s happening every day. We can, and must, change this by getting working parents and caregivers care that actually works for their children, and supports them, too.
Why is behavioral health support for the entire family important for employers to get through the Great Resignation?
This is all taking a real toll on working families and their employers: in fact, our 2021 Pediatric Behavioral Health Needs Survey found that one in five (21%) of parents and caregivers have either already quit their jobs in the last year or plan to quit their jobs in the coming year to better care for their children’s behavioral needs. There’s an increasing gap with women feeling burned out and leaving the workforce at higher rates than men.
We’re approaching the third year of the pandemic, and it’s costing employers. According to Gallup, replacing an employee costs half to two times the employee’s annual salary. When employees are having to spend so much time managing their kids’ behavioral health needs with limited or so support, there’s a significant impact on productivity, too. Add to that medical costs associated with employees’ own heightened mental health needs, and this has a significant cost burden for employers.
It shouldn’t be either/or for parents and caregivers. By making behavioral and mental health care for children and families a covered benefit, health plans and employers can connect families to much-needed support so they don’t have to choose between their careers and supporting their kids. Families deserve better, and companies have the power to change this situation.
What are you seeing in terms of health plans and employers making this shift in benefits?
I think we’re really seeing a shift in adoption of family-focused benefits. At Brightline, we’ve driven significant momentum in this past year to meet the needs of families. In the past year, we expanded our digital platform, Connect, and coaching programs to all 50 states, the first time comprehensive behavioral health care for kids, teens, and families was made available nationwide. We’ve now had nearly 14,000 parents and caregivers using Connect, in all 50 states. We’ve expanded our clinical services to cover 89% of the U.S. population in terms of the states where we have licensed therapists at the ready to work with families. We’ve seen fast and significant adoption by leading health plans and national employers who recognize the great need and impact bringing these services to their members will have — we’re now covering 24 million health plan lives, partnering with 35 employers, and are rapidly forging new partnerships and expanding access from here.
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