HEALTH EQUITY

Recapping the news on health equity topics from behavioral health companies.

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HEALTH EQUITY
Nov 1, 2022
6 min. read

Movember: Behind the Mustache

Movember is the annual awareness month for men’s health issues: prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and men’s suicide.
China Campbell

Every year during the month of November, it seems like all we see are men sprouting new growth on their faces. Mustaches are as far as the eyes can see. From the fresh-faced teenage boy to the wise face of wisdom, men everywhere are growing out their Movember mustache. What does it really mean?

Background of Movember

Movember is the annual awareness month for men’s health issues: prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and men’s suicide. The idea for Movember was created in 2003 in Australia, and it is now the leading charity changing the face of men’s health. The growth of mustaches sparked conversation around men’s health issues, mainly prostate cancer. It was the first large-scale movement to bring attention to prostate cancer. In 2004, Movember started to raise funds for the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia. In 2006, Movember partnered with the Prostate Cancer Foundation of New Zealand. It wasn’t until 2007 that awareness month started to gain traction in the United States. Movember officially launched in the US with a partnership with the Prostate Cancer Foundation, in Canada with Prostate Cancer Canada, in the UK with The Prostate Cancer Charity, and in Spain with FEFOC. Also, the Movember Board was formally established. In 2008, the annual campaign started a greater expansion to other nations. 

As of 2020, there were over 6 million supporters worldwide. It now brings awareness to many different health issues and challenges that men face. Movember is truly about something greater than oneself. It connects people globally and brings to light some severe issues. From its humble beginning, it has grown into a major movement. 

In terms of statistics, one in eight American men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. Testicular cancer strikes young. It’s the most common cancer in young American men. On a global average, one man dies by suicide every minute of every day. These are statistics that were not often talked about in the past. Movember moves to change that. There needs to be more awareness about these issues and more focus and funding on how to help make a difference. 

The Positivity of the Annual Mustache

Thanks to Movember, there is now extensive research, funded mainly through donations, that is helping to identify different causes and factors of men’s health issues. There has now been improved research, greater knowledge of how the prostate works, and a better understanding of how prostate cancer works and progresses. They now have Movember-funded scientific research to identify why the most common type of testicular cancer runs in families. This is a significant leap forward in understanding testicular cancer. 

Not only is their focus on male-specific cancers, but Movember now also raises awareness and funding for research on other men’s health problems. They also raise awareness of men’s mental and behavioral health concerns and focus on male suicide. They fund several projects that support the mental health and well-being of men and boys. 

Movember is now the official delivery partner for the Rugby League World Cup and is the first international sporting event to have a mental health charter. Movember also currently partners with national Breast Cancer Foundations across the globe. 

There are other ways to be a part of the movement besides growing a mustache. One of their campaigns is to get out and run or walk 60 miles over the month of November. That is 60 miles for the 60 men we lose to suicide each hour, every hour across the world. This is a part of the idea of motivating men to take action for their own health. Running, walking, growing, and fundraising are all beneficial for Movember. 

Movember is more than just a bunch of men growing out their handlebars. The trope, “No Shave November,” is not just about a manly competition for growing the best nose neighbor. It is also not just an excuse tied to being lazy with shaving. Movember is so much more than that. It is about awareness. Male health concerns have in the past been moved to the back burner. Only with the new focus on awareness has there been a vast amount of new research and funding allocated to these serious issues. So, the next time you see a new lip caterpillar during the month of November, just remember, it’s growing for a reason. 

You can learn more about Movember and how to participate in the change here.

B2B
HEALTH EQUITY
Oct 27, 2022
10 min. read

Body, Mind, & Spirit: Elevating and Personalizing Behavioral Healthcare

At Evernorth, elevating behavioral health means providing a set of services that help to stabilize and improve a person’s wellbeing (body, mind and spirit) along with creating awareness, positive coping skills and tools to build resiliency.
Melissa Reilly & Dr. Doug Nemecek

In a world where behavioral health has been siloed for so long, is it really possible to find behavioral healthcare outside of point solutions? Is coordinated pharmacy, medical and behavioral care feasible? We spoke with Chief Growth Officer, Melissa Reilly, and Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Doug Nemecek, about Evernorth’s goal to make this utopia a reality. 

By now, we all know that unaddressed behavioral health conditions can negatively impact co-occurring physical health conditions. But first, Melissa and Doug dive into the ramifications that affect payers. They will also touch on Evernorth’s approach and key considerations in behavioral healthcare.

How do unaddressed behavioral health conditions affect costs for payers?

Melissa: Over the last few years, there has been such an increased focus on mental health and behavioral health needs and payers that we work with have a unique spectrum of needs that is often based on their unique populations.  Across that spectrum, we have seen firsthand, when members do not get the behavioral care they need – it increases the total cost of care and their members' ability to live the lives they want.

With the average delay between symptoms onset and treatment being 11 years, time to quality care has a huge impact on a payer’s total outcomes measures and also an individual’s ability to be a productive member of their community.

The other thing we tackle every day is that data across the care ecosystem is fragmented. Access to care is limited. Health equity and cultural concerns are often overlooked. Navigating behavioral health care without the right partner can lead to overspending. Members may start and stop care and/or switch providers a number of times before they find the right provider or the type of care that meets their unique needs. A first-of-its-kind analysis completed by Evernorth found that people diagnosed with a behavioral health condition, such as anxiety, depression, or substance use disorder, who receive behavioral outpatient care had lower total health care costs by up to $1,377 per person in the first year compared to those who didn’t. Not only that, the savings impact was sustainable over time with a two-year cost reduction of up to $3,109 per person.

Our behavioral health solutions support the reduction of overspending by addressing behavioral and mental conditions before they further complicate health.  We also can help payers solve some of their biggest challenges by leveraging our suite of Evernorth assets.  Our data and collaboration with our partners allow us to proactively identify and engage with members early before it leads to a bigger issue. By matching members to the right level of resources more quickly, our next-generation experience delivers data-driven, personalized care on demand. We partner with our clients and those we help every step of the way to guarantee results.

Doug: Unaddressed behavioral health conditions also play a large role in a person’s other medical comorbidities. Someone who is struggling with diabetes, for example, is significantly more likely to be struggling with depression. 92% of adults living with behavioral health disorders also suffer from physical conditions and cost approximately 3-6x more.

Our approach is focused on whole-person health, and it’s imperative to pay attention to both mind and body – that is where we see the most success.

What is Evernorth’s approach to good behavioral health care?

Melissa: At Evernorth, elevating behavioral health means providing a set of services that help to stabilize and improve a person’s wellbeing (body, mind and spirit) along with creating awareness, positive coping skills and tools to build resiliency—reducing the burden of their issues, big or small. Enabling people to contribute productively and effectively to live their life with peace of mind.

We are always innovating and connecting cohesively across the ecosystem – we don’t wait for the call – we are proactive in identification, engagement, and network outreach tailored to a member’s needs- like providing quick access to care and looking at medication impacts, how and when our employees used it, with measurement to ensure your population is on the right pathway to optimal health. We elevate behavioral health through a data-driven approach that meets members where they are across the healthcare ecosystem, like when filling scripts or visiting PCPs. We leverage capabilities like accurate and early identification, in-the-moment engagement and quality of care on connected platforms to deliver personalized behavioral health with the right resources and level of care at the right time, reducing total cost of care - with an emphasis and focus on measurement throughout the member journey.

Our goal at Evernorth is to break down the silos to provide coordinated pharmacy, medical and behavioral care – we strive to provide the right care, at the right time, in the right place.

Doug: ​What you may not realize is that access is only a small piece of the problem - the member's individual needs are not the same for everyone - from the time to first appointment, matching to the right provider and delivering quality outcomes. Our provider matching is second to none, we have the ability to guide members to find the right level of care for them, the right provider that meets their needs and preferences, and makes them feel comfortable seeking and continuing with care. We also follow up to ensure members get the care they need and that no one falls through the cracks.

We’re also always looking for ways to improve and expand our network. We identify providers that will meet members’ diverse needs. For example, we are actively working on contracting virtual providers that focus on using evidence and cultural competency to improve access and efficacy for people in BIPOC (Black/Indigenous/People of Color) communities.

19.4% increase in the number of providers specializing in addressing cultural/ethnic issues

Our large network focuses on quality providers, with capabilities to deliver all modalities and acuity levels of care from text coaching to acute inpatient care, virtual and face-to-face appointments, across all specialties, with our provider match based on preferences, and need. Navigation support along with our data insights to proactively identify and engage members – access is not just quantity of providers but the right care at right time with the right provider throughout the journey. Clinical models are built to engage members early based on our data and ensure every individual is getting the immediate support they need.

96% of Evernorth customers would recommend their in-network provider

​It’s important to address lack of access and high total medical spend and to choose a BH partner that challenges the status quo, delivering innovative BH care holistically and comprehensively without the need of added point solutions. Evernorth is the partner to do that.

What is the most important takeaway for our readers?

Melissa: Engaging the member early and often is where we’ve seen the most success. We can understand where the member is on their behavioral health journey and identify issues and engage the member earlier on.

Holistic care and measurement throughout are also critical. We can see how a member’s overall behavioral health is improving and provide the right level of care when the member needs it.

Doug: Helping each member to find the right level of care is so important. Whether that is coaching or an in-person therapist – every member is unique and we need to personalize the care journey for them. This approach is more affordable and prevents behavioral health issues from developing into more severe and costly conditions.

To learn more about Evernorth’s suite of behavioral health solutions or its approach to behavioral healthcare, visit Evernorth Behavioral Health | Evernorth or contact winningbehavioral@evernorth.com.

HEALTH EQUITY
B2C
Oct 18, 2022
5 min. read

Innovating Towards the Ideal: As Mental Health Needs Evolve, So Should the Health System

Panelists explored how their organizations propel change to accommodate person-centered needs and what the future holds for transformative mental healthcare.
China Campbell

Event recap: Senior leaders from Alliance Signature Series Sponsors, representing organizations across the healthcare industry, discussed the opportunities and challenges of developing an evidence-based and innovative mental healthcare system. Panelists explored how their organizations propel change to accommodate person-centered needs and what the future holds for transformative mental healthcare.

Mental health diagnoses are treated far differently than physical health concerns. Mental health is treated like an episodic condition rather than a chronic disease. At this point in time, mental health needs are skyrocketing, and our healthcare system is falling behind. The lack of parity between mental and physical healthcare calls for new innovations in the healthcare system. 

Unfortunately, there are many barriers to treating mental illnesses, as there is a growing shortage of specialized psychiatrists. It has become critical to prepare the primary care setting to be able to care for mental health patients. We know that 50% of mental health patients come to primary care settings. The first step to innovating the mental healthcare system is improving care accessibility. We can’t help people with mental health conditions if they aren’t able to access care, to begin with.

There is a significant lack of access to proper healthcare treatment and services, especially in underprivileged communities. The lack of equitable health care support significantly impacts how people perceive and obtain care. This contributes to mental health stigma. What we are doing is not working. Luckily, there are many opportunities for improvement. 

Change and innovation are desperately needed. Trying to provide mental health services at scale can be challenging. Many new players and solutions are emerging in the behavioral health industry, but innovating an entire branch of the healthcare system involves a lot of trial and error. The history of psychology is deeply rooted in work that has gone on for over a hundred years. Much of the thinking is conservative. As the field grows, the thinking becomes locked in the thinking. Because of this, new solutions need to consider how to bring policy innovation that will support the clinical innovation that is taking place. Innovation is also rapidly changing with the help of digital tools. The challenge with that is ‘how are we going to integrate those advancements effectively going forward that can really maximize the capacity for people to take advantage of it in the best way and weave it together in a way that keeps people falling between the cracks?’ There is an enormous need for advancement, but without innovation, we will have a hard time getting there. 

Innovation and technology are one way to fix some of the problems created over decades. Technology is a great way to help us find new modalities of care and help keep track of patient retention, engagement, and progression of care more efficiently. The only way we will improve the mental healthcare system is if we figure out how the field can move into the future as we have in every other field. 

Equity in the space of behavioral health is an essential factor of innovation. We know that expanding the funding opportunities would help enhance equity in mental health providers’ training and credentialing. Another aspect of this equity issue is incorporating mental health access in schools. Providing more mental health services in schools can help pave the way for proper care for those who have not had access in the past. Offering the right kind of access for the people who need it can change how behavioral health helps heal everyone. 

Innovation is how we progress into the future. There are many disparities in the mental health field, but there are many positive ways to make the right change to impact the most people. Innovation is not always about creating new things. It can also be taking an existing system and making it more effective by using data to our advantage and what we have available in the field of medicine. Innovation is the future; the future is better care for mental health. 

You can watch our full panel here.

HEALTH EQUITY
B2C
Oct 11, 2022
5 min. read

Harnessing Digital Tools for Better Mental Health Care for All

The silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic is that seeking mental health treatment became much less stigmatized, and mental health care access has expanded through more available tools.
Cara McNulty & Taft Parsons III, MD

Harnessing telehealth for better mental health care

The silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic is that seeking mental health treatment became much less stigmatized, and mental health care access has expanded through more available tools. In fact, since the start of the pandemic, most people agree that society has become more comfortable using telemedicine for therapy (63%), using digital tools to improve mental health (58%), and engaging in mental health discussions (56%). October 10 was World Mental Health Day, which is an important moment to recognize this achievement, but also to highlight that we must do more to expand access to all communities in need. 

Meeting the demand for care

For many, the pandemic introduced and magnified health anxieties, catalyzed major lifestyle shifts and increased isolation. A CVS Health and Morning Consult study found six-in-ten (59%) Americans have experienced concerns about either their own mental health or that of family and friends, a 9%-point increase since April 2020. 

As the need for care increased, digital tools played a crucial role in closing access gaps – especially in mental health. For instance, among Aetna’s commercial members, 58% of outpatient mental health visits were done via telemedicine in 2021, up from 49% in 2020 and less than one percent in 2019. Year to date in 2022, the use of telemedicine remains strong at 55%. It is not surprising that this trend has continued as telemedicine has proven to be particularly effective for mental health care as it allows for greater convenience in connecting with a provider, and it can be a good option for those who may be apprehensive about receiving this kind of care in person. 

Reaching those in need, equitably

However, while the pandemic sparked a dialogue about the importance of mental health, not every community has been able to obtain care equally. While use of mental health services among White adults (with any mental illness) was 46.3%, only 29.8% of Black and 27.3% of Hispanic adults with any mental illness used mental health services. This is a gap that we need to close. To help, CVS Health has launched several efforts to expand access to care, especially digitally. 

For example, during the pandemic we launched a program called Here4U, which is a virtual peer support group, facilitated by a licensed clinician, that addresses the importance of mental wellbeing. These groups, which we’ve tailored toward specific communities such as Black women, LGBTQ+ youth and working moms, allow participants to discuss life challenges, changes at home, or other pressing issues and events. Following participation in a Here4U group, individuals have expressed that they felt heard and understood, and appreciated the ability to connect with their peers. Being able to discuss life’s challenges with others in similar situations can be extraordinarily helpful and encourages those in need to seek further care. 

We’ve also continued to expand access to therapy within local communities across the country. Patients can get same-day depression screening appointments at all CVS MinuteClinic locations, as well as in-person and virtual mental health counseling services in select states. These professional mental health care providers can conduct an assessment and offer personalized treatment plans and counseling that address feelings of stress, anxiety, grief, depression and more. CVS Health also provides a wealth of publicly available mental health guides – with an emphasis on Black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) youth -  screening tools to help anyone get a quick read on their emotional health and other resources on CVSHealth.com. 

Leveraging today’s tools and knowledge for a brighter tomorrow

Americans are more open to accessing mental health resources, and technology makes them more accessible than ever before. Still, there is more work to be done in eliminating the stigma of mental health and expanding access to all populations. Members of the healthcare system, employers and other community leaders can help by initiating conversations about mental health, prioritizing treatment as they would for a physical ailment and using all available resources to ensure factors like income, location and mobility don’t impede access to critical care.

Article written by: Cara McNulty, President, Behavioral Health and Mental Well-being, CVS Health; and Taft Parsons III, MD, Vice President & Chief Psychiatric Officer, CVS Health.

HEALTH EQUITY
POLICY
Oct 10, 2022
7 min. read

World Mental Health Day: Making mental health & well-being for all a global priority

Over the last two years, the mental health field has been hit with a massive blow. However, the future of mental health is bright. As we are rounding the last portion of the third year of the pandemic, we can see a beacon of hope on the horizon: technology.
China Campbell

It seems like every time we look at a calendar, we see another national or world holiday. There are some silly ones, like National Talk Like A Pirate Day and National Lipstick Day. But there are also some that do more than provide a reason to act out or go shopping. Any day that brings our health and safety to attention can make an impact. World Mental Health Day falls into that exact category. Can you think of a better day to take some time and focus on your mental health?

History

World Mental Health Day falls on October 10th each year and takes place immediately after Mental Illness Awareness Week. This week is dedicated to focusing on mental health and well-being. In 1990, Congress officially decided to make the first week in October Mental Illness Awareness Week. This was a major step forward in the care and treatment of mental health. Mental health affects everyone, and it was time to make it known.

This year's World Mental Health Day will focus on making mental health and well-being for all a global priority. This focus comes off the back of the pandemic, as many mental health illnesses, such as anxiety and depression, have seen a rise of over 25% during the first year of the pandemic. Unfortunately, while mental health crises rose, access to mental health services fell fast. The mental health field took a massive hit with providers leaving, offices shutting down, and treatment programs being halted. Access for treatment of new mental health concerns was pushed back due to scheduling problems and a severe lack of mental health providers. New mental health patients had to wait upwards of six or more months in some places due to scheduling issues. While treatments were delayed and more triggering issues arose, mental health became a hot topic worldwide.  

The World Health Organization hosts World Mental Health Day and works with many different partners to launch the campaign with the theme of the year. This day boosts awareness and gives the world a chance to focus on policy change, creating better conditions for people with mental health, allowing the opportunity to recognize progress in the field, and researching what else can be done. 

Over the last two years, the mental health field has been hit with a massive blow. However, the future of mental health is bright. As we are rounding the last portion of the third year of the pandemic, we can see a beacon of hope on the horizon: technology is that beacon.

Technology

Technology is at the forefront of the advancement in access to mental health. While COVID-19 did some irreversible damage, it also presented the mental health community with a unique opportunity. With a large portion of the world quarantined in their homes, a need arose to access mental health services virtually. This was not something that generally existed before the pandemic. 

The lockdowns opened the door for technology to be created in order to connect people with their providers without ever entering a medical facility. Innovations in the field have created not only digital platforms for pre-existing companies but also have allowed virtual pioneers to develop digital platforms for companies to exist in a fully digital environment. There has been an increase in mental health apps available for phones and tablets, bringing the care we need directly into the hands of those who need it. It is now possible to have comprehensive mental health care, treatments, programs, and medications monitored and maintained entirely online. You can receive mental health care almost immediately in an emergency and know your needs will be met. 

This leap into the digital world has positively impacted the mental health field and the needs of so many individuals. In addition to the ease of access, this virtual care has also allowed the opportunity to seek treatment for those who otherwise would not or could not get the help they need. The elderly and teens have been especially vulnerable to the increase in mental health challenges, and they now can receive care and treatment in a manner that fits their unique circumstances. The elderly do not have to worry about transportation needs with virtual care. Youth and teens can now receive care without worrying about the stigma around seeking treatment. Another benefit of virtual care is that people with irregular schedules or crises that fall after regular business hours can now receive care in a 24/7 manner. College students can especially benefit from this, as they often deal with mental health concerns while being bogged down with school and work and usually would not have time to seek health. 

We have so much to be thankful for this World Mental Health Day in the mental health field. Advancements in technology are making some significant strides toward access for all. There is still more we can do. This day allows us to take a step back and evaluate how far we have come and how far we still need to go. So this World Mental Health Day, let's ask ourselves, what is our next step to make mental health and well-being for all a global priority?

HEALTH EQUITY
Oct 6, 2022
4 min. read

How to Deliver Antiracist, Equitable, and Unbiased Mental Health Care

Norman H. Kim, Ph.D., the Co-Founder of the Institute for Antiracism and Equity, spoke about delivering antiracist, equitable, unbiased mental health care. Here is what he had to say. 
China Campbell

Norman H. Kim, Ph.D., the Co-Founder of the Institute for Antiracism and Equity, spoke about delivering antiracist, equitable, unbiased mental health care. Here is what he had to say.

Why Focus on Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity in Mental Health

Diversity is simply a number. Inclusion is an experience where all stakeholders, particularly marginalized and excluded, truly and consistently are welcomed, valued and heard, respected and seen. Diversity ≠ Inclusion, just as Equality ≠ Equity. Equity is individualized and recognizes systematic advantages and disadvantages to allow for differences in a situation.

Graphic of hands reaching out with varying skin tones

Authentic Allyship

Awareness ≠ Change. There need to be more than just simple gestures and performative support. Condemning racism, but not addressing its roots and significant impacts, does little if anything. Recognizing the lack of diversity in our fields, even with efforts to increase hiring, remains a temporary stop-gap without addressing issues of barriers, discrimination, and equity and changing our workplaces’ and professions’ cultures to be more inclusive. There needs to be authentic allyship and actual efforts to inculcate true inclusivity and equity into our practices and in our fields. 

Allyship vs. Advocacy

Advocacy is taking action in service of a cause. Allyship is taking active action to support people from marginalized groups/communities. Advocacy can involve raising awareness about inequities. Allyship is acting on disparities in access, pay, and opportunities. Equity and inclusivity live with leadership, not in marketing. 

Understanding Your Privilege

Structural racism is a set of historical and contemporary policies, practices, and norms that create and maintain white privilege and white supremacy. Policies, institutions, and cultural norms work to reinforce and perpetuate racial group inequity. Privileges are associated with whiteness, and disadvantages are associated with non-whiteness. It is not something most people or institutions choose to practice; it’s embedded in our systems and ways of thinking and acting. 

Social Justice in Mental Health

There is no healing without justice and equity. When we work with people from marginalized and excluded communities, we must understand the history of racism and how it is maintained by myriad systems, institutions, and privileges. We still operate primarily using concepts and constructs formed by men whose ideas reflected their positions of privilege, power, and circumstances. 

Disparities in Mental Health

Mental illness is prevalent among African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic/Latin Americans, Native Americans, and Pacific Islander Americans, but they are less likely than Whites to seek mental health services. Services were often not accessible, available, or effectively delivered to these populations. Ethnic minority groups were found to underutilize services or prematurely terminate treatment and receive a lower quality of health care while having less access to care. The disparities exist because of service inadequacies. 

Potential of Tech-Based Solutions

Tech gives us the ability to increase reach to eliminate barriers. The ethos of innovation and creativity are enhanced with technology. Tech promises to improve the mental health community, which is crucial.

Graphic of a brain with colorful map dots.

Watch our full panel and hear more conversations here

HEALTH EQUITY
POLICY
Jul 26, 2022
8 min. read

A Glimpse Into The World of Women’s Mental Health

Women’s health is often seen as a “niche” or solely as reproductive health and is underfunded, and these few female innovators are talking about it.
Charlotte Hawks

We hosted conversations with many innovative leaders during our Going Digital: Behavioral Health Tech Conference. One of these conversations focused on women’s mental health and was led by Anjlee Joshi, the Head of New Markets at Amae Health. The panel included Jessica Bell van der Wal, the Co-Founder and CEO of Frame Fertility, Layo George RN, MHSA Founder and Executive Director of Wolomi, and Crystal Adesanya, Founder and CEO at Kiira Health. All of these leaders gave us incredible insights into the world of women’s mental health.

Background

This conversation happened before the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe v Wade, but we must mention the ways in which this ruling has changed the landscape of women’s mental health in the United States. The United States has already been in a mental health crisis. The American Psychological Association (APA) confirms that this ruling will exacerbate the ongoing crisis, and increased structural barriers to abortion affect individuals’ psychological health. Additionally, this ruling will affect the healthcare system as a whole, telemedicine, and ethical dilemmas faced by providers. Women of color will feel the most significant impact. 

This conversation discusses the pregnancy journey, women’s health, and how stakeholders can respond. Importantly, we address that women’s health is often seen as a “niche” or solely as reproductive health and is underfunded. Rock Health reported that as of 2021, companies focused on women’s health make up just 5% of digital health funding since they started recording in 2021, and companies focused on pregnancy, postpartum, and parenthood made up 37% of women’s health companies founded in the past five years. However, women make 80% of healthcare buying decisions, so there is a massive opportunity to cater to women and their healthcare needs.

Pressing Concerns in Women’s Health

Many aspects of women’s health in the United States need to be addressed. Crystal says she thinks about “how do you utilize technology to increase access, but also create services that are empathetic, one, and compassionate and culturally centered? I think that’s a big piece of what’s missing when you think about the healthcare experiences of women [in the US].” 

Layo also emphasizes, “women of color, specifically, black women are three to four times [more] likely to die on their pregnancy journey, and it doesn’t matter if you’re educated if you have all the money in the world… There’s evidence that shows oftentimes we are more likely to not be listened to.” Black maternal mortality is at higher rates than in any other developed country.  

Additionally, Jessica emphasizes that “there’s a lack of research and data around women’s health and fertility.” In fact, women weren’t required to be in clinical research until 1993.

Women’s Health and Mental Health

Many women have shared their challenging pregnancy journeys to show other women that they are not alone. Even on this panel, Layo spoke of her experience with perinatal depression, and Jessica explained her experience with postpartum depression. Layo explained that they have mental health screening on the Wolomi app because “there is not a lot of [mental health] screening that happens during [the pregnancy] journey, prenatal and postnatal.” 

Jessica reminds us of some harrowing statistics about family planning, “42% of people that go through fertility treatment report feeling suicidal and 94% of people report feeling depressed.” 

Additionally, “four out of five women experience some level of anxiety when thinking about their ability to get pregnant, and more than a quarter [is] very or extremely anxious, and that anxiety starts at around 19 or 20.” Even before many women plan to start their families, women report being anxious about how their future fertility will unfold.

Crystal also reminds us that we also need to support and encourage women to take care of their mental health actively and continuously. She remarks, “because it’s not until they have very serious problems with their mental health, and then they’re like, maybe I should get it checked.” The high cost of therapy can be one reason people don’t access mental health earlier, but some digital solutions are trying to tackle those problems head-on. 

Misconceptions 

One of the biggest misconceptions about women’s health is that it is not profitable. As Crystal explains, women’s health is a “very profitable industry. There are millions of women and billions of dollars that need to be made within the women’s health space, and I am positive that we are getting to that place where there is more and more of a recognition of the fact that this is an industry that has a lot of areas that needs to be touched on.” 

Jessica agrees and continues, “I think there’s a temptation, for some reason or another, in women’s health, whether you’re an employer or investor, and wherever you are on the spectrum to say, ‘I’ve checked the box on women’s health, I must be done.’ And I think that means you assume that women’s health is kind of one piece of the puzzle. But I think if you flip that, the question I’d say is actually, ‘do you believe that health for women is different than health for men?’ And fundamentally, it is, and that’s why you see different vertical and deep plays in spaces of cardiovascular health for women, mental health for women, fertility health for women.” There are so many opportunities to innovate and reimagine care for women. 

Crystal also emphasizes, “that’s something we need to remember in the investment communities. The fact that we can make a little go a long way does not mean that we do not need more resources.” Jessica ends with a call to action, saying, “I want to encourage employers and payers and investors to be curious enough to want to reach out to us and talk about these things. 

Hope for the Future and Calls to Action

But luckily, all of our panelists have hope for the future of women’s health. Layo explains that she has seen women “have a breakthrough or they have this beautiful birthing experience or [they] change their provider because of something they’ve learned, and they know how to advocate for themselves. And that gives me hope them the word getting out there.” 

Jessica agrees, “we want to help women understand more about their bodies earlier, their hormones, their sexual health, their reproductive health. And we want to make sure these conversations with their providers are happening at least annually. And there’s interest, again, from all of these parties to want to participate. So that gives me hope.” 

You can watch our full panel and hear more of these conversations here.

HEALTH EQUITY
POLICY
Jul 22, 2022
7 min. read

National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month

Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month brings awareness to the mental health challenges experienced by racial and ethnic minority groups in the U.S.
Chisom Ojukwu

Every July, the United States (U.S.) observes the Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month to bring awareness to the mental health challenges experienced by racial and ethnic minority groups in the U.S. 

Bebe Moore Campbell (born February 18, 1950) was an author, advocate, national spokesperson, and co-founder of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Urban Los Angeles. Campbell was an advocate for mental health education and support among individuals of diverse communities and outlined the concept of National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month before losing her battle with cancer in November 2006. After her passing, in May of 2008, the U.S. House of Representatives announced July as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month to improve access to mental health treatment and services and promote public awareness of mental illness. 

Mental Health Disparities 

Approximately 18% of U.S. adults have a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year, and about 4% of adults have a serious mental illness. Most racial/ethnic minority groups overall have similar—or in some cases, fewer—mental disorders than whites. However, the consequences of mental illness in minorities may be long-lasting.

  • Rates of mental illnesses in African Americans are similar to those of the general population; however, disparities in mental health care exist. African Americans often receive poorer quality of care and lack access to culturally competent care. 
  • Compared to the rest of the U.S population, American Indian and Alaska Native populations have disproportionately higher rates of mental health concerns. This population has high rates of substance use disorders (SUDs), post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and suicide. In 2019, nearly one-fifth (18.7%) of American Indian/Alaska Native adults experienced mental illness in the last year. 
  • 2.7 million Asian American/Pacific Islanders have a mental and/or substance use disorder (SUD), and suicide was a leading cause of death for Asian Americans alone, from ages 15 to 24, in 2017.

There are also disparities in mental health service use in the U.S. People from racial/ethnic minority groups are less likely to receive mental health care. For example, in 2015, 48% of white adults with any mental illness received mental health services, compared with 31% of blacks and Hispanics and 22% of Asians. 

Reasons for these disparities in mental health care include the inability to access high-quality services, cultural stigma, discrimination, and overall lack of awareness about mental health. Under diagnosis and misdiagnosis of mental illness in people from racially and ethnically diverse populations stem from a lack of cultural understanding by health care providers. 

The Black Mental Wellness Lounge:  

During the Going Digital: Behavioral Health Tech Conference, we heard from startups, payers, providers, investors, and other visionaries in the behavioral health space. One conversation with Brandon Johnson, M.H.S, MCHES creator of The Black Mental Wellness Lounge, shed light on the mental health crisis experienced by Black people in the United States. The Black Mental Wellness Lounge is a YouTube page committed to promoting Black mental health and healing through the promotion of Black mental health tips, education, and resources for the community.

Brandon created the Black Mental Wellness Lounge to “have conversations about things that were impacting our communities specifically.” Brandon invites guests such as Black therapists and Black community members to give tips and resources for the community to utilize. One of the topics Brandon has covered includes the intersection between faith and mental health in the Black community. He says, “it is important for us as a faith community to really understand, how can we help people navigate this? How do we build the faith community in the Black church as a safe space to talk about these issues and challenges?” Brandon suggests that Black churches create mental health referral lists for churchgoers to make it easier for Black people to find a therapist and a safe space to discuss their mental health. Brandon highlights other organizations working to address Black mental health: The AAKOMA Project,  Caleb’s Kids, and The Black Mental Health Alliance.

Brandon wants people to understand that although the topic of suicide and suicide prevention can be intimidating and can feel scary, but young people are already having these conversations. He states, “we want to be a safe place to land for our young people. To listen without judgment, to not minimize the things that they are experiencing.” He continues, “our young people have access to things that we didn't… so giving them the opportunity to talk about that in a safe environment would put them in a better position to be okay.” Brandon highlights the need for intervention strategies on the local, research, and startup level specifically for Black youth. 

You can watch Brandon Johnson’s session here.

4 Ways to Get Show Support this Minority Mental Health Awareness Month  

1. If you or someone you know needs mental health care, you are encouraged to seek help from professionals. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention provides a great list of resources specific to minority communities and general, crisis, and mental health condition-specific resource lists

2. Consider donating to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Project 2025 to achieve its goal of reducing the annual suicide rate by 20 percent by 2025. 

3. Check out the National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month Facebook Page.

4. Tweet using #minoritymentalhealth to raise awareness. 

HEALTH EQUITY
B2B
Jul 20, 2022
7 min. read

A Health Equity Conversation with Google Health Executives

Google Health is “building products to empower people with the information they need to act on their health."
Charlotte Hawks

During Going Digital: Behavioral Health Tech 2022, we were fortunate to be joined by two Google Health executives, Megan Jones Bell, PsyD, and Ivor Horn, MD. Dr. Bell is the Clinical Director of Consumer and Mental Health, and Dr. Horn is the Director of Health Equity and Product Inclusion. We discussed Google Health’s strategy, how the digital health industry is changing, how to wire digital health products for inclusion, and their hope for the future of digital health.

Background

Google Health explains that they are “building products to empower people with the information they need to act on their health. We’re developing technology solutions to enable care teams to deliver more connected care. And we’re exploring the use of artificial intelligence to assist in diagnosing cancer, preventing blindness, and much more.” Google houses multiple companies, including Google Search, Youtube, and Fitbit, and each of these tools offers many specific services for consumers, caregivers, communities, and researchers. One of the tools they provide for consumers is clinically validated self-assessments available through Google Search for conditions like depression, anxiety, PTSD, and postpartum depression. 

Source: Google

Dr. Jones Bell recently published a blog where she discussed Google Health’s resources and how they analyze Google Search terms to give them more information. Searches for “mental health therapist” and “mental health help” reached record highs in 2022. And searches for “local rehab centers near me” have also reached record highs in the past few months. Google has a Recover Together page where people can find information about rehab centers, fentanyl overdose, and the importance of naloxone. Some Fitbit devices also offer apps for breathing exercises. Additionally, The University of Oregon is partnering with Google Health Studies to study how smartphones impact wellbeing.

Digital Health Industry

Before Dr. Jones Bell was an executive at Google, she was one of the earliest leaders in digital health with roles at Lantern and Headspace. She has seen the industry grow and change. We wanted to hear her perspective on where the industry has been and where it’s going. She reflected that “investment has historically come from two ends of the spectrum first, with some investment in telehealth solutions and in self-help apps. So largely CBT or mindfulness, things that are evidence-based but appropriate to do yourself. And I think over the last three to five years, we’ve seen more filling in in the middle so more connected services that bridge different levels of care, that integrate across the spectrum.” As we see more innovation in this middle section of the spectrum, digital health can become more cohesive across all aspects of care.

She continues, “these moments of care transitions [are] really where we see people fall through the cracks. So seeing more investment across these levels of care…more of these integration investments, I think are really important for our industry to actually, sustainably make a health impact on users, not just meet them in this fragmented, ad hoc way, as individual point solutions, so there’s a key maturing point for the industry.”

Inclusion

As the Director of Health Equity and Product Inclusion, Dr. Horn thinks about integrating inclusivity into Google’s tools. Dr. Horn explains, “for example, when we think about Search and we think about food insecurity—because health is beyond specifically healthcare—we want to make sure that when someone searches for food, they are also finding food pantries or grocery stores near them that are affordable.” Google Search can be a really powerful tool when built for all users.

Dr. Jones Bell notes room for improvement where there are limitations of Google and the industry as a whole. She talks about the industry’s ability to provide information about conditions such as anxiety and depression and Search’s ability to populate relevant information. “When you start to get more specific [such as looking into schizophrenia warning signs], we realize that our ability to help people is fairly thin, as an industry overall.” There has been recent excitement about SMI funding, which shows promise, but as an industry, we still have a ways to go.

As we think about inclusion, we also discussed the interplay between tech vs. touch and how digital health can strike a balance between the two. Dr. Jones Bell expresses that they try to approach health in three ways: 

  • Through consumers: “Meeting people where they are in everyday moments.”
  • Through care teams: “Supporting community with data, resources, and tools.”
  • Through community health: “supporting communities with data, resources, and tools.”

Dr. Horn echoes that a focus of Google Health is “meeting people where they are with the resources we can provide.

Hope for the Future

The digital health field has taken many strides, but what do we want the future to look like? Dr. Horn says, “My hope for digital health in the future is that we just call it health, and it is a part of what we do. And that we are building for everyone, everywhere.” Digital health is steadily becoming ubiquitous, but we must ensure that we are creating inclusive products and platforms accessible to all. Dr. Jones Bell agrees and says, “My thesis for digital health has always been: improve access, affordability, and effectiveness for people.”  

As we look to the future of digital health, we’re glad leaders like Dr. Horn and Dr. Jones Bell are in charge.

You can watch Dr. Horn and Dr. Jones Bell’s session here.

Want a lot more digital mental health and substance use insights? Subscribe to our behavioral health tech newsletter here.

HEALTH EQUITY
ADOLESCENTS
Jul 19, 2022
7 min. read

Sounding the Alarm on Black Youth Mental Health

The suicide rate is further exacerbated by unique stressors that Black youth face, such as discrimination and violence, which leads to a higher risk for mental health problems.
Charlotte Hawks

The youth mental health crisis disproportionately affects Black adolescents. We spoke with Brandon Johnson, MHS, MCHES, a Public Health Advisor for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), about Black youth suicide prevention. We also reflect on a conversation from our 2020 conference with Dr. Alfiee Breland-Noble (Dr. Alfiee), Founder of the AAKOMA Project, about how behavioral health technology can help address mental health concerns in the Black community. Both conversations highlight the unique challenges and recommendations for Black youth mental health and what tools are available to help.

Current State of Youth Mental Health

As of 2018, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reported that death by suicide was the second leading cause of death in Black children (10-14) and the third leading cause of death for Black adolescents (15-19). In fact, the death rate by suicide for Black youth is increasing faster than any other racial/ethnic group. Brandon explains, "we've seen the suicide rate of young African Americans, for ages 5 to 12, double in the last thirteen years, and we've seen this rate decrease with their white counterparts."

The suicide rate is further exacerbated by unique stressors that Black youth face, such as discrimination and violence, which leads to a higher risk for mental health problems. Additionally, Black adolescents are less likely to receive care for depression due to many barriers to treatment, such as structural inequalities, stigma, and mistrust of healthcare providers. 

Unique Challenges and Concerns

One factor that may be contributing to the increased suicide rate is that Black youth are experiencing an access problem to mental health resources. As Brandon explains, they "may not have the ability to go and find a mental health support or mental health professional to be able to engage with them. [Another issue] is also how is the system built for our young people to be able to find the support that they need?" 

Unfortunately, our mental health system is challenging to navigate, and on top of that, there is a tremendous lack of mental health providers of color. Only 4-5% of Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists are people of color, and less than 2% of American Psychological Association members are Black or African American. The lack of representation can lead to Black youth not seeking treatment due to fears of cultural competence. The lack of providers of color is a problem that will take many years to address. In the meantime, it requires non-Black providers to be genuinely curious about the experiences of the youth that present for treatment.  

Next Steps

There must be a multi-pronged approach to begin to address the rise in suicide attempts in Black youth. Five factors can help protect against suicide:

  • Familial support
  • Spiritual engagement
  • Community/social support
  • Personal aspects (i.e., self-esteem, emotional well-being)
  • Environmental factors such as family housing

Brandon Johnson emphasizes the importance of including the family unit in any interventions, explaining that "young people don't have the ability to do everything on their own, the family unit has to be part of the support that we give to our young people." 

When building digital solutions to help Black youth, it's crucial to meet them where they are and include them at the very beginning of the design process. As Brandon Johnson explains, "if you want to engage the Black community in the services that you provide…make sure that they are there to influence policy, direction, experience, protocols, all of these things should have that community engaged in a meaningful way." 

Dr. Alfiee emphasizes that "there have to be unique ways in which we understand and then begin to try to address the unique mental health needs of Black people and people of color. And I think that behavioral health technology, when built with all these things in mind, can really be something that can move us along that path in the right kinds of ways." 

Both Brandon Johnson and Dr. Alfiee mention the notOK app as an example of a digital health solution getting it right. The app was built by two Black adolescents, and it has a digital panic button to connect adolescents to their trusted contacts when they are in need. Dr. Alfiee explains, "because it has been developed by people of diverse backgrounds, it already has [cultural competency] built into it. It's not an afterthought. It's not an add-on. We don't have to do an adaptation to get to the cultural piece. It's baked in." 

Reminders

1. Include the Black Community and People of Color from the Beginning

If you are building a mental health solution, you need BIPOC involvement from the beginning, not as an afterthought.

2. Mental Health Providers Need to Focus on Cultural Competency

It will take many years to increase the number of mental health clinicians of color. In the meantime, all mental health clinicians need to become genuinely curious about the lived experience of youth of color.

3. We Need to Talk about Suicide

As Brandon Johnson explains, "I know the topic of suicide and suicide prevention can be intimidating, and it can feel scary. But our young people are talking about it. They're having the conversations already, and so if we think that we're doing them a favor by not talking about it, we're not. We're just leaving them to figure some of these things out on their own. We want to be a safe place to land for our young people." 

The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is 988 and is available 24/7 for support, and the Crisis Text Line is available by texting "HOME" to 741741. Please see here for warning signs and how to support your loved ones.

There is so much more to discuss on this topic, and you can hear these conversations and more in our video library

Want a lot more digital mental health and substance use insights? Subscribe to our behavioral health tech newsletter here.

ADOLESCENTS
HEALTH EQUITY
Jul 17, 2022
7 min. read

Building Digital Mental Health Solutions for LGBTQ+ Youth

LGBTQ+ youth face unique challenges that lead to higher levels of mental health concerns. imi is an online platform designed to support LGBTQ+ youth mental health.
Charlotte Hawks

A few weeks after the Going Digital: Behavioral Health Tech Conference, we are highlighting a few conversations held during the conference. We spoke with members of the Hopelab team about their new product, imi, including Fred Dillon, the Head of Advisory Services at Hopelab, Deborah Levine, the Director of LGBT YouthLink at Centerlink, and Primo Goldberg, a youth consultant at Hopelab. We discuss how imi was created, specific concerns that LGBTQ+ youth face, and how digital health can provide an important service.

Background

LGBTQ+ youth face unique mental health challenges. LGBTQ+ youth report higher levels of suicidal ideation than their heterosexual peers. The Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that 45% of LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year. Additionally, the 2022 survey found that nearly 1 in 5 transgender and nonbinary youth attempted suicide, and LGBTQ+ youth of color reported higher rates than their white peers.

In fact, since the beginning of COVID-19, more than 50% of LGBTQ+ youth report higher levels of anxiety and depression. Additionally, 72% of LGBTQ+ youth reported anxiety symptoms in a two-week period, including more than 3 in 4 transgender and nonbinary youth, and 62% of LGBTQ youth reported symptoms of major depressive disorder, including more than 2 in 3 transgender and nonbinary youth. As a result, 48% of LGBTQ+ youth wanted counseling from a mental health professional but were unable to receive it in the past year. On the other hand, LGBTQ+ youth may also face harassment or a lack of cultural competency from providers, which may lead to an avoidance of mental health services for fear of potential discrimination.

Despite what these numbers suggest, LGBTQ+ youth are not inherently prone to suicide risk because of their sexual orientation or gender identity but rather placed at higher risk because of how they are mistreated and stigmatized in society.

Unique Challenges

LGBTQ+ youth face unique challenges that lead to higher levels of mental health concerns such as bias, discrimination, family rejection, and other stressors due to their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. About 75% of LGBTQ+ youth report facing discrimination, and a 2019 survey found that 86% of LGBTQ+ youth reported being harassed or assaulted at school. In fact, one study reported that lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth were 140% more likely to miss a day of school compared to their heterosexual peers due to safety concerns. 

More than 80% of LGBTQ youth said COVID-19 made their living situation more stressful, and it is estimated that LGBTQ+ youth have a 120% higher chance of experiencing homelessness due to family rejection. Additionally, 94% of LGBTQ+ youth reported that recent politics negatively impacted their mental health. Youth with intersectional identities, such as BIPOC LGBTQ+ youth, face added discrimination, hurdles, and lack of access to mental health care. Family conflicts, heightened stress, lack of community support, bullying, and lack of an affirming environment are all risk factors for poor mental health outcomes for LGBTQ+ youth.

What is imi?

imi was created by Hopelab, Centerlink, and the It Gets Better Project and is an online platform designed to support LGBTQ+ youth mental health. The platform offers four topic-based guides focusing on stress, queerness, stigma, and gender, and these guides are built to be a tool for LGBTQ+ youth to self explore. Each guide has content and activities built to enhance coping skills and mental well-being, alongside LGBTQ+ resources and tips for safer browsing imi also has a quick exit button and will automatically time out after 10 minutes of inactivity. This is thoughtfully designed to minimize the risk of users being unintentionally outed. New data, detailed in a preprint manuscript (not yet peer-reviewed), indicates that imi effectively supports the well-being of LGBTQ+ youth.

Knowing all of the barriers and stressors that LGBTQ+ youth face, Fred explains, “what we know is that there are big disparities in mental health for LGBTQ+ teens. So the whole reason we developed this was to give them a greater sense of support, a better sense of an ability to explore and affirm that identity, and then also to manage some of the stressors that just come up of living in a world that doesn’t always affirm and is sometimes outright hostile.” imi was built in conjunction with LGBTQ+ youth to ensure that it is meeting their needs. 

imi is also free to access, and Deborah explains, “this really meets young people at the very starting point for them. Anyone can access it as long as they have technology. And my hope is that they will have the sense that there’s a community out there supporting them, that cares about them.”

imi also addresses the intersectional nature of identity and how those identities can influence a person’s lived experience. Primo explains, “It’s amazing to know that there are people recognizing the specific intersections of being a person of color, being queer, and being genderqueer because there’s not a lot of mainstream recognition of intersectional identity and the oppressions that intersectional identities experience.” 

imi can also be useful as a guide that therapists use with their patients as well. Fred explains, imi “can provide some tools that folks could use between sessions and bring back to talk with their therapist about.” 

These are just a few of the many insights from our conversation with Fred, Deborah, and Primo. To hear the full conversation and learn more about imi, go to our video library.

Want a lot more digital mental health and substance use insights? Subscribe to our behavioral health tech newsletter here.

HEALTH EQUITY
Jul 15, 2022
6 min. read

Building Mental Health Solutions With Marginalized Identities In Mind

The intersection of someone’s identity and the difficulty for many people to access care shows an opportunity for digital health solutions to be involved.
Charlotte Hawks

In case you missed it, we discussed health equity at length as it relates to mental health and substance use care at the Going Digital: Behavioral Health Tech 2022 summit. We hosted a panel discussion about health equity moderated by André Blackman, the Founder and CEO of Onboard Health, Ashlee Wisdom, MPH, the Founder and CEO of Health in Her Hue, Lauren Powell, PhD, President and CEO of The Equitist, and Gaurang Choksi, Founder and CEO of Violet. We also discussed health equity with Juliette McClendon, PhD, the Director of Medical Affairs at Big Health. Here we highlight both conversations and talk about how startups and other stakeholders can make progress. 

Health Equity in Mental Healthcare

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) says behavioral health equity is “the right to access quality health care for all populations regardless of the individual’s race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, or geographical location. This includes access to prevention, treatment, and recovery services for mental and substance use disorders.” 

A study by Mangurian et al. emphasizes a few ways to address mental health equity, including increasing population-based care, increasing community-based mental health services, addressing social determinants of health, engaging the community, enhancing the pipeline of diverse providers, and supporting a diverse workforce.  

A report by Rock Health discusses equity specifically in digital health and breaks down the specifics between healthcare and technology disparities. Healthcare disparities include inequities in access and outcomes, which stem from social factors. On the other hand, technology disparities relate to issues such as connectivity, affordability, and accessibility of technology services.  

Dr. McClendon helps us understand the scope of the problem by saying, “over 75% of Black Americans are not receiving the help that they need…We also know that research has shown over 50% of racial and ethnic minority and people of color have experienced microaggressions in psychotherapy.” Dr. McClendon also emphasizes that LGBTQ+ individuals have faced discrimination in the healthcare system, which makes them less likely to engage with it.

Dr. McClendon also remarks that “a lot of people are not able to access traditional mental healthcare and the way we think about mental health care.” There are many barriers that are not conducive to 50-minute therapy appointments, including cost, lack of insurance coverage, difficulty finding providers, and many people’s work hours. 

The intersection of someone’s identity and the difficulty for many people to access care shows an opportunity for digital health solutions to be involved. Dr. McClendon emphasizes the importance of centering identity, saying, “these people’s culture, ethnicity, somebody’s gender identity, all of these things are aspects of how they experience their mental health and how they prefer to receive treatment.” We can start building specifically with these identities in mind.

Center Marginalized Identities and Tailor Solutions

Dr. Powell emphasized the importance of centering marginalized identities when building these solutions to ensure the most appropriate solution is being built. Dr. Powell says, “I think you bring tailored solutions to the problems. And so I think part of our challenges in really needing to drive towards health equity is that we try to approach things through a lens of equality versus equity.” Dr. Powell continues,One workbook or one workshop for everyone is really not going to work. So we really like to spend time talking with our clients, really understanding where they are, and understanding their commitment to change.” 

André also mentions the importance of not getting lost in the technology. He explains that it’s essential to build “trust, respect, and dignity, which I think sometimes, especially if we’re in the digital health, which we all are, that sometimes that gets lost in the platforms that we’re building and things of that nature, too. But, again, getting back to the basics.” We must remember that the technology is supposed to be built to help people.

How to Build Inclusive Workplaces

Another important step of this work is to build inclusive workplaces for all companies, especially those that are being behavioral health products. In our discussion, Gaurang emphasizes, “DEI isn’t a compliance exercise. It’s not just people taking responsibility; it’s everyone’s responsibility. And I frankly hope more and more companies meaningfully put capital behind it.” We are starting to see a shift in understanding the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion, but we still have progress to be made. 

Violet is also helping providers become more culturally competent, which will have downstream effects on the healthcare system. He explains, “standardizing cultural competence as a skill. To me, it’s very surprising that in our healthcare system, we haven’t said cultural competence is a skill you can build. And that’s exactly what we’re normalizing, which is pretty exciting.” There is still so much to discuss with health equity, so please stay tuned for additional articles.

These are just a few of the many insights from our conversation with Dr. McClendon, and our panel with André, Ashlee, Dr. Powell, and Gaurang. To hear each of these conversations, check out our video library

Want a lot more digital mental health and substance use insights? Subscribe to our behavioral health tech newsletter here.

POLICY
HEALTH EQUITY
Apr 14, 2022
7 min. read

CALLING ALL BH MEDICAID INNOVATORS! These states want to hear from you

The Medicaid Innovation Collaborative is helping AZ, HI and WV adopt digital behavioral health solutions. APPLY TO THEIR OPEN RFP! The opportunity is especially ripe for technology and innovation to address the mental health and substance use care needs of Medicaid populations.
Karissa Godzik, MPH

Innovation has the potential to address persistent challenges to health equity in Medicaid populations. The opportunity is especially ripe for technology and innovation to address the mental health and substance use care needs of Medicaid populations. 

Unfortunately, there are many barriers for states and managed care organizations (MCOs) to adopt digital health and innovation. BUT! There’s good news: The Medicaid Innovation Collaborative (MIC) is a new initiative bringing together key stakeholders to deploy digital health and care delivery innovations to exactly these populations. 

We talked with Karissa Godzik, Program Manager of the Medicaid Innovation Collaborative, about the states they are working with (Arizona, Hawaii and West Virginia) and their open RFPs for behavioral health startups to apply and partner with these states. (DEADLINE IS TUESDAY, APRIL 19TH - DON’T MISS OUT!). 

What is the Medicaid Innovation Collaborative?

Medicaid Innovation Collaborative, or MIC for short, aims to enable the Medicaid ecosystem to advance health equity through high-impact innovation. We believe that health startups can close critical gaps in care access, quality, and social determinants as well as boost the great work that’s already happening on the ground. Our program focuses on reducing the barriers to adoption and scale for these companies.

Our model provides a structured approach to deploying innovation. We built a framework to define a health equity challenge, supported by data and the perspectives of beneficiaries, to identify best practices and policies that enable innovation, and to find and implement solutions that can address these challenges. For this to be successful, all Medicaid stakeholders need to be involved, and we’re building a coalition of states, health plans, community representatives, and organizations committed to this work. 

MIC was launched by three organizations committed to serving the U.S.’s low-income, most vulnerable and underserved communities: Acumen America, Adaptation Health, and The Center for Health Care Strategies. Our work also wouldn’t have been possible without the catalytic support of The MolinaCares Accord, CommonSpirit Health, and Hopelab.

What barriers prevent States and MCOs from adopting innovation, particularly those that drive health equity? 

From states, we’ve heard that it comes down to limitations in resources, time, and ability to track impact. Federal and state administrations can change quickly and frequently, so it can make it hard to plan long term, not to mention how long it can take to propose and launch new initiatives. And when states do want to drive towards certain outcomes, they may have to wait months or years to collect the appropriate baseline data and start to realize improvements, all while coordinating with multiple managed care plans to get the right metrics and reporting in place. 

On the managed care side, first and foremost, they are working to meet their contractual obligations while trying to navigate varying state requirements. They typically find it more difficult to engage members, and plans don’t necessarily have the data they need to draw conclusions about the kinds of initiatives that would support their goals. Even when interested in adopting innovation, the time and effort to source, evaluate, and onboard vendor solutions is a real obstacle for many of these plans. 

Who are your program participants and what can they expect from the program? 

Our program aims to engage all Medicaid stakeholders, but the program is championed by state Medicaid agencies. Each cohort begins with state Medicaid agencies who commit to 1) a shared health equity priority and 2) rallying their managed care plans to achieve this goal. For our current cohort, we have Arizona, Hawaii, and West Virginia, who selected behavioral health as their priority, and all 15 of their health plans participating in the cohort. 

Central to the MIC model, we also work to elevate the voice of Medicaid beneficiaries and other community advocates throughout key phases of the program. Beyond participating in in-depth interviews, we ask community representatives to join a Community Advisory Board, which guides the areas of focus and criteria for the request for information, vendor selection, and solution implementation. 

For their participation, states receive technical assistance from the Center for Health Care Strategies as well as facilitated collaboration with their peers in other states. States and their health plans both get access to the primary research conducted with beneficiaries and the organizations and providers that care for them, providing deeper insight into the lived experience and real challenges faced by those they serve. All of the work culminates in an innovation showcase, which provides states and health plans access to vetted companies and their solutions, which are sourced through an MIC-led national request for information. Selected companies will have the opportunity to be considered for contracting and implementation.  

You have a new RFI open! What startups should apply and where can they go to do so?

The 2022 Cohort is looking to identify private-sector, tech-enabled solutions that address behavioral health challenges for adolescents in Arizona and West Virginia and pregnant and postpartum women in Hawaii. 

For adolescent behavioral health, we’re looking for companies that provide: (1) navigation and coordination of care, resources, and services for adolescents and their families, and (2) alternative care models to address early intervention, crisis response, and ongoing follow-up services. 

For maternal behavioral health, we’re looking for companies that can enable, navigate, and coordinate behavioral health care for expecting and new moms. 

Selected organizations will present their solution to state and managed care leaders in May 2022, with the potential to engage health plans for future contracting opportunities. 

The application closes next Tuesday, April 19th, and there is no fee to apply.

Application and additional information can be found here: medicaidcollaborative.org/apply 

HEALTH EQUITY
B2C
Apr 7, 2022
6 min. read

Treating Unaddressed Behavioral Health Conditions to Reduce Avoidable Costs

This week, we’re talking to a group that is focused on populations with complex comorbid physical and behavioral health conditions. As we’ve discussed quite a bit on the blog, we know that when mental health and substance use disorders go untreated, they can cause individuals much more difficulty dealing with their symptoms. If paired with a chronic illness, this burden only significantly increases.
The Ontrak Team

This week, we’re talking to a group that is focused on populations with complex comorbid physical and behavioral health conditions. As we’ve discussed quite a bit on the blog, we know that when mental health and substance use disorders go untreated, they can cause individuals much more difficulty dealing with their symptoms. If paired with a chronic illness, this burden only significantly increases. This combination leads many patients to seek emergency care at higher costs to health plans. These payers are eager for solutions that address untreated behavioral health conditions to reduce these costs.

When it comes to supporting patients dealing with multiple chronic conditions with underlying behavioral health issues, it is important to have a care team skilled in engaging patients with personalized plans and timely care. The team from Ontrak Health shared their approach with us.

How do unaddressed behavioral health conditions contribute to inflated health care costs?

One of the key healthcare challenges we are tackling at Ontrak Health is how to engage complex populations with unaddressed behavioral health (BH) conditions + chronic physical conditions into high-value care to meaningfully reduce medical expense.

When an individual is not receiving adequate treatment for a behavioral health issue - such as depression, anxiety, or substance use disorder – and they are not engaged with a primary care provider or proactively managing their other chronic physical conditions, their physical health will likely deteriorate until they require crisis care in an ER or hospital setting. It is well documented that preventable ER and inpatient stays are one of the main drivers of avoidable healthcare costs. 

Unfortunately, in many cases the BH issue will continue to be unrecognized or undiagnosed in the urgent care setting. For example, take an individual with diabetes who has exacerbations that land them in the hospital twice. They are stabilized at the initial visits, but then a few months later are back in the hospital, and the diabetes is labeled as refractory (not responding to treatment). However, the underlying cause is actually undiagnosed alcohol use disorder that is destabilizing their blood sugar. Alternatively, it could be untreated depression or anxiety that is preventing them from participating in diabetes management or adhering to treatment plans.

It is this cycle of low value utilization that contributes significantly to inflated healthcare costs.

Our focus at Ontrak is helping individuals achieve lasting health improvements to reduce medical expenses. We do this by removing barriers to care, empowering sustainable behavior change, helping members develop self-efficacy, and connecting them with providers to address underlying behavioral health conditions. Through this proven approach, we are able to deliver a significant and durable reduction in ER and inpatient utilization and costs across our member base.

What does Ontrak's AI-driven, integrated care model look like? And how does it drive deeper engagements and better outcomes? 

Ontrak recently announced an industry-first Advanced Engagement System that will enable us to deliver precision behavioral health by infusing AI into every step of the behavioral healthcare journey. Our AI-powered platform will optimize program eligibility, member identification and outreach, coaching interactions, provider visits, interoperability of data between Ontrak, providers, and health plans, and last but not least, outcomes.

Once enrolled into the Ontrak program, AI will match members with the best Ontrak Care Coach to help them work towards their health goals, and also recommend the best behavioral health provider match for treatment. Once matched with a member, our coaches take a person-centered approach to engagement, and connect in the ways that work best for the member, allowing the coach to become a trusted advocate and resource. 

Our integrated platform will also facilitate collaboration between coaches and providers by offering unprecedented visibility to a member’s care journey, progress and health outcomes, and providing seamless exchange of session notes and other data. 

Lastly, our AI-infused services will help coaches develop deeper engagements with members by enabling highly personalized, timely, and empathetic care, while maximizing the efficacy of treatment plans by providing, for example, real-time feedback on fidelity to evidence-based models.

Leveraging AI to optimize each step in the care journey alongside personalized, high-touch coaching means that we can deliver better outcomes that last.

How does Ontrak's high-tech, human-centered approach deliver a reduction of medical expenses for health plans?

As noted earlier, we deliver meaningful cost savings to our health plan partners by durably reducing avoidable inpatient and ER utilization. Across our Medicare, Medicaid, and commercial member base, we have reduced hospitalizations by 63% and ER visits by 42%, on average. A soon-to-be published analysis of the “treatment effect” of the Ontrak program demonstrated a $486 PMPM greater cost savings durable over 24 months for Ontrak graduates compared to a propensity-matched control group who did not enroll in Ontrak.

We are able to deliver superior outcomes by leveraging AI combined with deep human connection that allows us to identify, engage, guide to treatment, and activate previously unaddressed populations.

HEALTH EQUITY
Mar 8, 2022
7 min. read

Leading Black Women Transforming Maternal Mental Health

Maternal mental health care must become more accessible and less stigmatized. There are a few leading Black women in the industry shared a little about their company and what inspired them to create it.
Solome Tibebu

The Maternal Mental Health Leadership Alliance reported that 1 in 5 women experience maternal mental health conditions during pregnancy or first year following pregnancy. Despite this prevalence, 75% of those symptoms go untreated. Women living in poverty and women of color are more likely to experience maternal mental health conditions yet less likely to get help. This is detrimental to their overall health and wellbeing and their child’s development. Maternal mental health care must become more accessible and less stigmatized. 

This International Women's Day, I had a chance to talk to a few leading Black women who are transforming the industry of maternal mental health care. These incredible women shared a little about their company and what inspired them to create it.

Lauren Elliott, CEO & Co-Founder, Candlelit Therapy

Lauren Elliott founded maternal mental healthcare app, Candlelit Therapy, pulling inspiration from the quote, “A candle never loses its flame by lighting another”  and her experience as a Black journalist, public health professional and mom, who experienced a traumatic birth with her now 5-year-old son as she led mental health campaigns for the City of New York. At 38 weeks pregnant, she learned her son was in distress and rather than being educated by providers, she was ignored which led to an emergency cesarean birth. Stories like hers are amplified throughout the country among countless women of color and this inequity has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Candlelit Therapy’s flagship product, Candlelit Care, is a point-of-care digital therapeutic focused on prevention and dismantling of perinatal mental health disparities for birthing parents of color during and after pregnancy. The platform helps healthcare providers easily embed culturally-affirming screening, symptom education and mental health support into their clinical workflow at no cost to the expectant patient and their family.

Check out Candlelit Therapy’s website.

Layo George, CEO, Wolomi

Layo George is a registered nurse and an entrepreneur focusing on population health. In response to the nationwide maternal health crisis facing black women, Layo founded an organization called Wolomi that provides resources and guidance to improve the experiences and outcomes for black women during their perinatal periods.  

Wolomi is the only digital community founded by a Black nurse that offers support to women of color to improve maternal health outcomes. Focused on guiding and supporting aspiring moms, moms-to-be and new moms to enjoy their pregnancy journey. Wolomi mobile app offers a pregnancy companion that includes perinatal mental health screening, support and referrals to maternal health experts.


Check out Wolomi’s website or email us at hello@wolomi.com.

Nathalie Walton, CEO & Co-Founder, Expectful

Expectful was founded by Mark Krassner-Wave, who wanted to create a solution to reduce stress and anxiety in pregnant and new mothers, which he knew would ultimately lead to happier babies and families. He launched Expectful as an app dedicated to meditation during this life stage as a tribute to his mom who struggled with anxiety during pregnancy and throughout his early years. 

When I joined as late-stage co-founder in 2020, it was clear that meditation alone wasn’t enough, especially as the pandemic asked so much more of moms and moms-to-be than ever before. Women needed an entire world of holistic care to tap into to support them on their journey -- including mindfulness but also movement, nutrition, increased knowledge through classes, support groups, and access to experts on demand. This was true of my pregnancy and postpartum experience and of so many others, and I wanted to reflect that in our offering.

Expectful offers all the science-backed holistic care women need on the journey toward “Mom.” With practices for hopeful, expecting, and new mothers to help reduce anxiety,  ward off depression, and support physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing from fertility throughout motherhood.

Check out Expectful’s website or follow us on Instagram.

Melissa Hanna, JD, MBA, Founder & CEO, Mahmee

I founded Mahmee with my own mom to address the distressing facts and figures around maternal and infant healthcare in the United States, and ultimately to close gaps in health outcomes and disparities in care faced by Black and Indigenous women. Her work as a leading Registered Nurse in Obstetrics and a longtime International Board Certified Lactation Consultant helped me to better understand how both structural bias and a lack of digital resources were impacting these rates. Maternal mental health is a critical component of comprehensive maternity care, and yet we found that so many new and expecting mothers don’t gain access to services fast enough, or at all, so we knew that resources for behavioral health and emotional wellness, in particular, needed to be incorporated into our solution.

Mahmee is an integrated benefits platform for maternal and infant health. Our team is building the digital infrastructure needed to connect patients, independent allied health professionals, and enterprise healthcare organizations together to ensure that moms and babies do not fall through the cracks of this $160 billion U.S. healthcare market, which has the highest maternity costs and mortality rates of all developed nations.

Mahmee increases access to comprehensive wraparound prenatal and postpartum care and reduces severe disparities in mortality and morbidity for Black mothers and infants. We power doula, mental health, and high-risk obstetric programs for some of the largest public and private health systems in the country by helping those enterprises to expand their service lines with community-based perinatal health providers who use Mahmee’s data-driven EHR to schedule visits, document care, make referrals, and communicate with patients. Mahmee’s marketplace helps new and expecting parents discover those providers, utilize their benefits, and get fast access to care, in-person and virtually.

Check out Mahmee’s website or call them at 818-317-2556.

B2B
HEALTH EQUITY
Feb 24, 2022
7 min. read

Digital Therapeutics Specifically Targeting Panic Attacks and PTSD

Digital therapeutic companies which pursue a narrowed focus conduct deep dives into research on clinical outcomes, cost savings, and overall impact for a specific condition.
Dr. Chris Wasden

As a teenager, I recall the dreaded experience of what felt like I was surely dying. Or so, I thought at the time. In fact, I later learned that it was my first panic attack. Panic disorder is a debilitating condition that stops individuals from work and life, and the NIMH says an estimated 4.7% of U.S. adults experience panic disorder at some time in their lives.  

My experience only made me more excited to learn about interventions supporting people struggling with panic attacks and PTSD. GDBHT partner Freespira is the first FDA-cleared digital therapeutic that significantly reduces or eliminates symptoms of panic attacks, panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in only 28 days. 

As a refresher, digital therapeutics are a non-drug alternative to treat, manage, and prevent various disorders. Some digital therapeutic companies cover a broad spectrum of conditions. However, others choose to focus on specific conditions. Those digital therapeutic companies which pursue a narrowed focus conduct deep dives into research on clinical outcomes, cost savings, and overall impact for a specific condition.

Those digital therapeutic companies which pursue a narrowed focus conduct deep dives into research on clinical outcomes, cost savings, and overall impact for a specific condition.

This week, I’m joined by Freespira’s Chief Clinical Officer, Bob Cuyler, PhD, to discuss this new digital therapeutic treatment in the blog this week: 

Freespira has the first FDA-cleared digital therapeutic to significantly reduce or eliminate panic attacks, panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. You have some exciting study outcomes with partners like Highmark. Tell us about it.

Freespira collaborated with Highmark Health and Allegheny Health Network on a study of patients diagnosed with panic disorder (Kaplan et al., 2020). Researchers measured clinical outcomes and cost reductions over a full year following treatment with Freespira and the results were notable. 

In terms of outcomes, 91% of patients reported significantly fewer symptoms at the one-year mark, and 68% were in remission as measured by the Panic Disorder Severity Scale (PDSS). These long-lasting results also contributed to cost savings. Overall medical costs were down 35%, pharmacy costs dropped 68%, and emergency department costs were 65% lower. 

Another Freespira client is a managed Medicaid plan. In less than 12 months, the plan is seeing positive clinical and financial results. Of the patients treated with Freespira, 70% have achieved clinically significant reductions in their panic disorder and PTSD symptoms after the 28-day treatment – an outcome that compares favorably with traditional treatment via medication or psychotherapy. Early data point to a nearly 40% reduction in medical costs, which we expect will improve further when measured a full 12 months after treatment. Both clinical studies and real-world results are vitally important when health plans and providers evaluate digital therapeutic treatments as part of their behavioral health strategies. 

Both clinical studies and real-world results are vitally important when health plans and providers evaluate digital therapeutic treatments as part of their behavioral health strategies

It’s great when research demonstrates impact, but the treatment has to work in real life, too. Freespira has shown benefit in both in studies and everyday practice, which is contributing to our growing adoption. 

Freespira does a lot of work with the Veterans Administration. How are you supporting veterans to reduce or eliminate panic attacks and PTSD symptoms?

Yes, veterans are very important to us. Freespira is available through Veterans Healthcare Administration benefits and as you might expect, the need is high. An estimated 11-20% of veterans have been diagnosed with PTSD (U.S. Dept. of Veteran Affairs) while more than 8% meet the diagnostic criteria for panic disorder (Gros et al., 2011). 

In trying to treat these conditions, veterans face challenges ranging from transportation for  appointments to finding qualified providers nearby to feeling stigma around behavioral health issues. And psychotherapy and medication don’t work for everyone. Medication side effects and reluctance to take part in exposure-based therapies are significant hurdles. 

In a survey we conducted with veterans, we found that 77% expressed interest in trying a PTSD treatment that does not involve additional medications or long-term therapy. The Freespira alternative is a medication-free, at-home, adjunctive treatment. Our 28-day treatment is convenient. It’s supported by virtual coach visits and the equipment ships directly to patients. 

A study of PTSD patients at the Palo Alto Veterans Affairs Health Care System showed that 89% had a clinically significant reduction in PTSD symptoms after the 28-day Freespira treatment, with 50% of participants still in remission six months later (Ostacher et al., 2021). 

I am looking forward to the upcoming webinar with you. What can audience members expect to learn?

Yes, we're excited to have you moderating a panel discussion on Mar. 1, 2022: “An Rx for Behavioral Health Equity—Digital Therapeutics.” 

As most of us know, the pandemic has affected mental health and changed the ways patients receive care. The need for new, accessible behavioral health solutions has ramped up significantly, and digital therapeutic treatments help address critical gaps. 

We’ll discuss how to evaluate and deploy digital therapeutic treatment solutions, which transcend common treatment barriers while effectively addressing access, adherence and symptom management.

Attendees will learn about five key characteristics of digital therapeutic adoption: 

  1. Does the digital therapeutic treatment have regulatory approval?
  2. Are there peer-reviewed clinical studies on the solution?
  3. Do the studies and other data show improved health outcomes?
  4. Can the digital therapeutic help reduce total costs of care?
  5. Does the solution work in the real world?

AHIP, the national trade association representing the health insurance community, is co-sponsoring this timely and fascinating conversation. We invite your readers to register for the webinar on the AHIP site with this link

HEALTH EQUITY
B2C
Jan 20, 2022
6 min. read

Scaling Digital Therapeutics for an Equitable Future

The demand for digital therapeutics has accelerated as technology has advanced, provider shortages persist, and more consumers are looking for solutions to their mental health concerns amid the pandemic. Digital therapeutics serve as non-drug alternatives to support mental wellbeing and they are also reducing barriers to care for underserved populations.
Celeste James

The demand for digital therapeutics has accelerated as technology has advanced, provider shortages persist, and more consumers are looking for solutions to their mental health concerns amid the pandemic. Digital therapeutics serve as non-drug alternatives to support mental wellbeing and they are also reducing barriers to care for underserved populations. 

Big Health, a digital therapeutics company dedicated to helping millions back to good mental health, has pioneered and scaled the industry-leading reimbursement model for digital therapeutics via the pharmacy benefit manager. This week, the company announced its $75 million Series C funding round. I had the opportunity to talk to Celeste James, Vice President of Equity & Population Health, about the importance of digital therapeutics and Big Health’s goal for health equity, including their quest of ensuring 50% of their users come from medically underserved populations.

What is Sleepio and Daylight, your digital therapeutics? 

Sleepio and Daylight are Big Health’s first two digital therapeutics for insomnia and anxiety, respectively.

Sleepio is a multi-week sleep improvement program featuring cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help people fall asleep faster, stay asleep through the night, and feel better during the day.

Daylight is a digital therapeutic intended for the treatment of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). The program takes automated CBT and other techniques, including tense & release and worry time, and fully automates to provide evidenced-based care without intervention from therapists or other medical professionals. 

Both Sleepio and Daylight are proven to provide safe and effective non-drug alternatives for common mental health conditions and in separate controlled studies, helped 76% of patients achieve clinical improvement in insomnia, and helped 71% of patients achieve clinical improvement in anxiety.

In light of provider shortages and subpar tools on the market today, why are these important innovations? 

We are at a unique moment of opportunity as the pandemic has led to increased prevalence of mental health conditions, making mental health care a top priority for payers, health systems, and patients. As a result, the shortcomings of traditional models of care have become clear: human-delivered therapy, even when enabled by technology, is insufficient to meet the ever-growing level of need, resulting in long wait times, provider shortages, and rising costs. For this and other reasons, mental health remains one of the most inequitable areas of health care.

Further, the reality today is the vast majority of patients with a mental health condition seek care within primary care, with more than 80% receiving medication. Separate clinical research has shown that these medications are often associated with moderately severe side effects and/or adverse events, and minimal long-term benefits. 

Digital therapeutics, however, provide safe, effective non-drug alternatives and evidence-based care, including cognitive behavioral therapy, through a pure software solution without coaches or clinicians – reducing barriers to care. This care delivery model allows us to reach individuals who otherwise wouldn’t have access to care due to barriers such as transportation, insurance and out-of-pocket costs. When created and implemented thoughtfully, digital therapeutics provide a consistent and equitable experience for users, reducing stigma and avoiding biases that often occur in traditional mental health treatment, and thus, improving health outcomes at great scale.

You have had a huge focus on health equity, help our audience understand how Big Health has centered on this work?

In April 2021, Big Health shared a public commitment to mental health equity, which includes a long-term goal of ensuring 50% of our users come from medically underserved populations. As part of Big Health’s commitment to increasing mental health equity, the team developed three specific goals addressing our internal structures and external impact:

  1. People: building a diverse team & equitable systems
  2. Product: ensuring our therapeutics are inclusive
  3. Populations: reaching & supporting those who are underserved

Today, 38% of Big Health’s leadership team consists of women or underrepresented minorities. Although we are still shy of our long-term ambition of having the diversity of our workforce reflect that of our user base, I am encouraged by the team’s progress to date. However, we must continue improving diversity and inclusion at Big Health to ensure that Black, Latinx and LGBTQ+ communities among others are better represented within our employee base.

Big Health aims to ensure that millions of people have access to evidence-based mental health care – the north star that drives all decision-making in the organization – and that we deliver equitable outcomes regardless of ZIP code, race, or economic status. In my role as Vice President of Equity & Population Health, I am supporting Big Health’s mental health equity goals by being integrally involved in our product development, go-to-market strategies, and business operations to ensure we bring an equity mindset to all that we do to scale access to good mental health.

HEALTH EQUITY
Dec 30, 2021
1 min. read

2022 Predictions: Mental Health and Substance Use Tech

Wow! It has been another year of COVID-19, another year of virtual care. What's in store for mental health and substance use tech and innovation in 2022? Join me as I grill my GDBHT live co-host, David Ricupero, for his thoughts on where behavioral health tech is headed next year!
David Ricupero

Wow! It has been another year of COVID-19, another year of virtual care. What's in store for mental health and substance use tech and innovation in 2022? Join me as I grill my GDBHT live co-host, David Ricupero, for his thoughts on where behavioral health tech is headed next year! Tweet us at @davidricupero @solometibebu to join the discussion.

(P.S., be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for juicy interviews with health plans, employers, providers, startups, investors and more).

B2C
HEALTH EQUITY
Nov 25, 2021
6 min. read

Caregivers, Mental Health & Technology

This Thanksgiving, I want to recognize the caregivers who have stuck by so many of us throughout COVID-19 and so much more this year. The events of these last few years have made a significant impact on caregivers’ mental health, and I’m delighted to showcase two organizations doing important work to support caregivers everywhere.
Tia Newcomer

This Thanksgiving, I want to recognize the caregivers who have stuck by so many of us throughout COVID-19 this year. The impact on caregivers’ mental health is a significant one, and I’m delighted to showcase two organizations doing important work to support caregivers everywhere. 

I’m sure you will remember Alex Drane, CEO of ARCHANGELS, joining us with Marcus Osborne, Senior Vice President of Walmart Health, at last year’s Going Digital: Behavioral Health Tech conference (watch session free here). ARCHANGELS is a national movement and platform that is reframing how caregivers are seen, honored, and supported using a combination of data and stories, through public and private partnerships. ARCHANGELS provides communities (including states, employers, healthcare providers, and payers) with an omni-channel data-driven engagement approach that changes caregiver’s lives (as well as top and bottom lines) for the better. Check out her recent report with McKinsey about the health of American unpaid caregivers amid COVID-19 and her collab with BCBSA Health of America here (and watch BCBSA Health of American's GDBHT2021 session here, too). 

I was elated to hear that Alex and her team have teamed up with CaringBridge, another organization I’m proud to support. CaringBridge is a nonprofit social network that offers simple tools for patients and their caregivers to share health updates and rally their community’s support. A health journey of any kind—diagnosis, injury, medical or behavioral health condition, pregnancy complications or other experiences—is difficult to endure alone. At a time when COVID-19 has impacted so many lives, I am pleased with how CaringBridge is leveraging technology to ensure that no one goes through a health journey alone. Tia and Alex both shared their perspectives with me on caregiving, mental health and tech:

Solome: How does technology play a role in making sure no one experiences a health journey alone?

Tia: While we’ve all read recent studies spotlighting the downside of social media and its correlation with increased isolation, technology can play a positive role in building community when going through difficult times. We’re in the beginning stages of investigating longitudinal research on how CaringBridge, a nonprofit digital social platform for people going through a health journey, specifically improves health outcomes. What we know right now is that people with social support have better health outcomes, less inflammation, and are more likely to adhere to treatment regimens. We also know that caregivers’ anxiety and depression decreases by up to 30% when using a digital tool like CaringBridge (as they know someone is in their corner offering support). And during the pandemic, we continue to work with healthcare institutions like Johns Hopkins to provide CaringBridge as a tool to manage patient communication with family and friends.

Ultimately, we believe in digital social technology like CaringBridge that enables simple and easy communication and support in one place. And with a singular focus on health journeys, we can provide a safe and private space to create community and support during a most stressful time.

Solome: Why is it important that people see themselves as caregivers and what are the mental health implications if they aren't recognized as such?

Alex: The intensity of caregiving is real – full stop. We feel its impacts on every side – the good, and the not-so-good. Then there’s this: of the 43% of adults in the US serving as a caregiver right now, around half of us don’t even identify as caregivers in the first place. It’s kinda hard to be supported in something not acknowledged.  And caregiving is an area where we could all use some support.  We know from ARCHANGELS data recently published with the CDC that 70% of unpaid caregivers are experiencing at least one adverse mental health symptom – it’s 91% for High-Intensity caregivers (those ‘in the red’). But we also know there is indisputable power in ‘the knowing’… as in knowing respite services exist reduces stress by 70%. How we engage with caregivers matters – and finding and using language that ‘speaks’ to the close to the one in two of us caring for a loved one is a vital part of providing support.

This year, I was delighted to join the CaringBridge Board of Directors. The board will be matching donations made on November 30, Giving Tuesday, up to $100,000. Along with the matching gift, please join me for a virtual gathering open to all on Tuesday, November 30th from 7:00-7:30 PM CST. It will be a night of gratitude and story sharing, featuring co-hosts Tia Newcomer, CEO of CaringBridge and Emmy award- winning journalist Cathy Wurzer along with Alexandra Drane, CEO of ARCHANGELS. 

Finally, thank you, to all of the caregivers pouring your compassion and energy into loved ones each day. It is of utmost importance that we as a society prioritize your mental health with additional resources and support. 

HEALTH EQUITY
B2C
Nov 18, 2021
4 min read

What Does a Virtual Health Company That Includes Everything for Everyone Look Like?

Integrated care has been an ongoing goal in the healthcare industry, but Included Health is raising the standards and integrating care for everyone, everywhere.
Dr. Nikole Benders-Hadi

Integrated care has been an ongoing goal in the healthcare industry, but Included Health is raising the standards. Included Health was formed after the merger of Doctor on Demand and Grand Rounds. The company’s integrated collaborative care model is creating a space for all healthcare needs, from behavioral health to chronic care and more. They also have a few initiatives that focus on meeting the unique needs of various populations including LGBTQ+ and Black communities. Dr. Nikole Benders-Hadi, Medical Director of Behavioral Health at Included Health, talks more about the new entity with me:

Last month, you announced the merger of Doctor on Demand and Grand Rounds' new combined entity name, Included Health! Tell us more about the company’s mission to raise the standard of healthcare for everyone.

Included Health is the first virtual health company to include everything - behavioral health, primary care, chronic care, specialty care, LGBTQ+ care and more - all under one roof, for everyone. Our goal is to care for every individual, every community - no matter where they are on their care journey or what type of care they need, and ensure that their location no longer decides the type, or quality, of healthcare they receive. We’re proud to have a name that reflects that.

You also recently announced the Black Community Innovation Coalition. What is that?

There is no one-size-fits-all in healthcare. When it comes to the Black community, we know that major health disparities exist, including that only 1 in 3 Black Americans in need of behavioral health treatment receive care and that Black women are 3-4x more likely to die from a pregnancy-related death. These types of healthcare disparities for Black and African American individuals are unacceptable and we want to do our part to help improve these types of inequities in the healthcare our members experience every day.

We already have an LGBTQ+ specific solution and we wanted to launch a hyper-tailored solution for the Black community as well, so we partnered with companies like Walmart, Genentech, State Farm, Target and more to create something specifically for this community. We're using insights from these companies' employee resource groups (ERGs) to build the first dedicated care concierge and healthcare navigation platform focused on improving the healthcare experience and advancing health equity for Black Americans.

Taking this hyper-tailored approach ensures that we are addressing the very unique challenges facing the Black community in a meaningful way.

Behavioral health is often siloed from the rest of healthcare services. How is your integrated collaborative care model changing that?

We believe that mental health is health and, coming out of the pandemic, we're continuing to see increased numbers of people struggling with both chronic medical conditions as well as mental health issues. At Included Health, we've built a truly integrated practice. Our primary care doctors are specially trained to recognize behavioral health issues so they can seamlessly refer patients to our behavioral health team, and we provide a full suite of behavioral health offerings, inclusive of psychiatry, therapy, and coaching services. Our aim is to meet the member where they are, and provide the access to care they are most in need of at that moment so we help them live their fullest lives.

Included Health is taking huge strides towards an integrated healthcare system for all. Watch Dr. Nikole Benders-Hadi’s GDBHT2021 session about Doctor on Demand’s culturally sensitive care, you can view it here.

POLICY
HEALTH EQUITY
Oct 28, 2021
7 min. read

How One GDBHT Partner Is Fighting Vaccine Fears

In an effort to debunk the myths and establish a trustworthy source, 120/80 MKTG has started a new campaign, “Just the Facts on Vax: Inoculating Against Disinformation.” I sat down with 120/80 MKTG’s spokesperson and writer and director of the campaign, Jon Reiner, and his team to learn more.
Jon Reiner

120/80 MKTG has powered the communications of top behavioral health brands and leaders like Headspace Health, Brave Health, Big Health, Cityblock, Papa and more. And now they’re on a new mission: reducing disinformation in the vaccine wars. Many people are talking about the COVID-19 vaccine on social media platforms, but not everything that is posted is true. Not knowing what is true or what is disinformation can lead people to feel anxious about getting the vaccine. In an effort to debunk the myths and establish a trustworthy source, 120/80 MKTG has started a new campaign, “Just the Facts on Vax: Inoculating Against Disinformation.” I sat down with 120/80 MKTG’s spokesperson and writer and director of the campaign, Jon Reiner, and his team to learn more. 

What is “Just the Facts on Vax: Inoculating Against Disinformation”? 

Six infectious disease doctors and nurses – including in-demand experts Dr. Carlos del Rio and Dr. Celine Gounder – are speaking up in a public health campaign, “Just the Facts on Vax: Inoculating Against Disinformation,” targeting the 14 states with the lowest vaccine rates in order to persuade people to get vaccinated. At this juncture in our two-month campaign, the results are encouraging with more than 1M impressions, 400,000 views and 2,500 visitor clicks to find out where to get a vaccine.

Overcoming COVID-19 vaccine disinformation requires going into the belly of the beast —Facebook, YouTube and other social channels. Launched on September 1st, “Just The Facts on Vax” is being streamed on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn as a short-form twenty-episode series, each of which addresses a specific vaccine-disinformation myth, such as “Getting the COVID-19 vaccine can harm my ability to get pregnant.” The campaign was born out of an urgency to win the information battle and help end the public health crisis by recruiting and providing a platform for medical experts whose knowledge and frontline experience would shift attention to where it belonged – on the facts.

Which medical experts have been featured so far and what are some of the myths they addressed?

Several of the United States’ top epidemiologists, infectious disease specialists, OBGYNs, nurse practitioners and public health officials have now presented “The Facts”:

  1. Dr. Celine Gounder, Infectious Disease Specialist & Epidemiologist, NYU & Bellevue Hospital
  2. Dr. Carlos del Rio, Distinguished Professor of Medicine, Epidemiology & Public Health, Emory University
  3. Dr. Mati Hlatshway Davis, Infectious Diseases Physician, John Cochran VA Medical Center, Director of the Department of Health, City of St. Louis, MO
  4. Dr. Stephanie Gaw, Assistant Professor UCSF, Maternal-Fetal Medicine, OBGYN & Reproductive Sciences, Infectious Disease Specialist
  5. Dr. Blima Marcus, Oncology Nurse Practitioner, Adjunct Professor & Public Health Advocate in the Ultra-Orthodox Community
  6. Dr. Jill Jim, Epidemiologist & Executive Director, Navajo Department of Health

Disinformation topics include: 

  • “The COVID-19 vaccine wasn’t adequately tested.”
  • “If the Polio vaccine took decades to develop, how was the COVID-19 vaccine developed in just one year?”  
  • “Getting the COVID-19 vaccine will make me infertile.”
  • “The vaccine will alter my DNA.”  
  • “If you’ve already had COVID-19, you’re protected from getting the virus again.”
  • “If you’re young and healthy, your immunity protects you from the virus.”
  • “Everyone has access to the vaccine.”
  • “The vaccine violates religious dietary laws.”

Why did 120/80 MKTG start this campaign?

“Just The Facts On Vax” was created and self-funded by 120/80 MKTG as a public health initiative to increase vaccinations, differentiated from other campaigns by its utilization of medical experts rather than celebrities and its reliance on science.

As health communications professionals, it was agonizing to witness COVID-19 vaccination rates stall because of public trust sabotaged by disinformation. Facebook and YouTube, in particular, had dithered, giving visibility to conspiracy theories undermining the science so essential to combating ignorance. For me, Facebook’s silence on harboring the ‘Disinformation Dozen’ was a galvanizing moment. Our public health crisis was losing an information battle, and it demanded a response that would go straight to the belly of the beast. 

“Just The Facts On Vax” has a single objective — to get more people vaccinated. So far, the campaign’s challenge to the disinformation has moved more than 2000 people to search where they can get vaccinated. If even one person’s life is saved because they listened to the experts and got vaccinated, then that’s why we are doing this.  We hope others will join us.

How does anxiety play a role in the decision process of getting the vaccine?

Just as disinformation can cause confusion and the anxiety it generates, fact-based information can have the opposite effect, giving people a sense of confidence to make a reasoned decision. To that end, the source matters. In the case of the #JustTheFactsOnVax campaign, we believed it was essential to have leading infectious disease doctors, epidemiologists, OB GYNs, and public health physicians be the sources of fact-based information, who would appeal to people’s reason. Episode #19, for instance, responds to fears that getting the COVID-19 vaccine is more painful than other vaccinations. That episode’s speaker, Dr. Carlos del Rio, addresses the issue in both scientific and experiential terms, stating that COVID-19 the vaccine does not hurt more than getting a seasonal flu shot.

Find out more and share the “Just the Facts on Vax: Inoculating Against Disinformation” campaign on social media: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

HEALTH EQUITY
POLICY
Oct 14, 2021
3 min. read

Addressing Racial Health Disparities with BCBSA

Communities of color are disproportionately impacted by many of the nation’s top health conditions, including mental health. Health disparities are a multi-dimensional problem that cannot be solved by one single solution.
Mark Talluto

Blue Cross Blue Shield Association’s VP of Strategy & Analytics, Mark Talluto, spoke at the Going Digital: Behavioral Health Tech 2021 summit about their data-driven approach to address behavioral health conditions and the disparities that affect communities of color (watch his session with me here). BCBSA recognizes the importance of addressing the racial health disparities that exist for mental health diagnosis and treatment in this country. 

Their studies show about one-third of millennials have a diagnosable behavioral health condition. Although, Black and Hispanic millennial communities have a lower prevalence, likely due to under-diagnosis. BCBSA’s National Health Equity Strategy strives to address racial health disparities by collecting data, scaling effective programs, working with providers and communities, and influencing policy decisions.

Next week, I will be joining fellow healthcare industry professionals at the BCBSA Health of America Forum on October 20-21 (learn more here), including Briana Duffy, Market President for the West Region of Beacon Health, and Shana Hoffman, President and CEO of New Directions Behavioral Health. I'll be asking them about how Beacon and New Directions  are focusing on stigma, access and cultural understanding when it comes to behavioral health service delivery.

Why is now the time to talk about mental health and what does that have to do with health equity?

Communities of color are disproportionately impacted by many of the nation’s top health conditions, including mental health. Health disparities are a multi-dimensional problem that cannot be solved by one single solution. It requires action from policy makers, providers, communities and healthcare industry leaders to raise awareness about mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression, that affect various generations and marginalized communities. By speaking openly about mental health, and the importance for leaders – no matter the industry – to address these conditions, we can explore ways to reduce stigma associated with mental illness, promote help-seeking behaviors and emotional wellbeing practices.

What is the Health of America Forum really going to cover?

The third annual Health of America Forum hosted by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association will take a deep dive into the key issues driving the maternal and mental health crises in America, including how we can collectively address racial health disparities. Over two days, business decision-makers, community leaders, and HR and wellness officers will virtually come together to discuss what steps should be taken to reimagine a more equitable healthcare system. We will discuss the challenges we face in addressing mental health issues, particularly in black and brown communities, and as a result of COVID-19. Join us here.

HEALTH EQUITY
Sep 30, 2021
21 min. read

Black Mental Health: An Exclusive Interview with Yolo Akili Robinson, Executive Director of BEAM, #GDBHT2021 Nonprofit Partner

I was so excited to sit down with their Executive Director, Yolo Akili, to learn more about their incredible work and how they are supporting people of color and LGBTQ+ folks nationwide.
Yolo Akili Robinson

As many of you know, Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective (BEAM) is our 2021 Going Digital: Behavioral Health Tech nonprofit partner. I was so excited to sit down with their Executive Director, Yolo Akili Robinson, to learn more about their incredible work and how they are supporting Black people with their emotional health nationwide.

AND, we were so blown away by all of their incredible initiatives, we are proud to make an additional donation to their new Southern Health Support Fund, matching up to $10,000 of donations at this link here. Join us and double your donation today!


We’re pleased to support BEAM’s latest fund, the Southern Healing Support Fund is a community driven fund that provides awards to Black mental health and healing practitioners including clinicians, yoga practitioners, community workers, and group facilitators to implement innovative healing and support strategies in the Southern United States. 

Why this fund, why now? 

According to the office of minority health, African Americans are 10% more likely to report having serious psychological distress than Non-hispanic whites. Medicaid plays an incredibly important role in mental health access. The federal program is the largest provider of behavioral health  (mental health and substance use treatment) coverage in the United States. In 2015, Medicaid covered 21% of all people with mental health needs, 26% of adults with serious mental illness, and 17% of adults who received substance use treatment. The Affordable Care Act helped make behavioral health services as widely covered by insurance as all other health services.  However, only four Southern states have expanded Medicaid, keeping the affordability of mental health programs out of reach. Nearly 90 percent of all people left without health coverage are in the Southern states, due to the lack of Medicaid Expansion. African-Americans are 13% of the total population but represent 24% of those left without health coverage without Medicaid Expansion. 

Mental and emotional health is critical to the lives of Black folks’ well-being. And yet, it is often overlooked. We are more likely to be uninsured and can’t often afford the services or activities that support our healing, or they’re not accessible because they’re not located in our neighborhoods. If you’re in the South, where most states didn’t expand Medicaid, access to all kinds of health care, including mental health services, are further out of reach.

History of the Fund: BEAM and the National Queer and Trans Therapist of Color Network (NQTTCN)  came together to establish a fund aimed at supporting the mental health and wellness of Black communities in states where Medicaid has not been expanded under the Affordable Care Act. This project builds on the pioneering work of NQTTCN in establishing a mental health fund for queer and trans people of color.

More information can be found on our website.

Below, you can read our transcribed conversation, or you can watch the interview here:

​​Solome Tibebu  0:01  

Hello everyone! My name is Solome Tibebu, the Founder of the Going Digital: Behavioral Health Tech Summit. And I am so pleased to have the Founder and Executive Director of BEAM (Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective), Yolo Akili here today with us. Yolo, welcome! Thanks so much for being here. Please introduce yourself and let us know what is BEAM.

Yolo Akili Robinson 0:25  

Hi, everyone. First of all, thank you so much for inviting me to this conversation, for your support of BEAM and our work, it really means a lot. I'm so excited about continued opportunities to collaborate and grow and cultivate healing for our community. So let me just say thank you to you, first. Everyone, my name is Yolo Akili. I am the Executive Director and Founder of BEAM which is the Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective. We are a national training, movement building, and grant making institution dedicated to the healing, wellness, and liberation of Black and marginalized folks. How we came to be... So, the last 15 years of my life I worked in public health in a variety of different sectors, from mental health, to HIV, intimate partner violence, substance use, and really at the intersections of all those particular sectors. Because, of course, none of them are in silos. Honestly, I always had this desire to cultivate something that could speak to the gaps of what I was seeing in the work. Whether it was the gaps of being able to address mental health in a way that was communicating to our communities, in a way that was discernible and not so academic. Whether it was a way in which I was hoping to transfer and support more skills being refined for all members of our communities. That really led me to start talking to other folks in the community, other colleagues and ask, "What would that look like, if we made something like this?" And that's where we came from, how it came to be. The biggest part of BEAM's work that is really important to me is that, our premise is that in order for our communities to heal, we just can't rely on social workers and therapists and psychiatrists. They are wonderful, but we need to also have everybody in the community, from the teacher, to the parents, to the activists, to the barbers, the stylist, to have their skills uplifted to respond to mental health distress, as well as more skills to unlearn and reframe our conversations around healing and mental health that we have every day. Because often those folks aren't the first responders, teachers are often first responders to distress. We know that many parents are. Many stylists and barbers hold a lot of conversations where the stigma gets enforced or gets unlearned. So our work is really focused on that village care model that says we can all do different things with different capacity and different skills, because we all clearly have different boundaries.

Solome Tibebu  3:02  

That is just so amazing. I'd love to learn more about some of your major initiatives right now.

Yolo Akili Robinson 3:10  

We have three different buckets of our work, the training, the grant making, and our community organizing. Right now with our training, we have our Black Mental Health and Healing Justice Peer Support Certificate. And that used to be a two-day in person training. We miss being in person with our folks. We used to have all kinds of fun. But now we do it virtually over the course of a month as an immersion online. It's five, two-hour sessions. Generally, we try to keep the cohort down to 50 to 60 people. Sometimes we get a lot of demand, but we try to keep it smaller so that we can go deeper. So that's the one of our initiatives. 

We also have our Black Masculinity Reimagined Program, a program that I'm really proud of. It's led by Leroy Mitchell and Cydney Brown and our team. That program looks at the intersection of masculinity of Black masculinity and mental health, and how those two impact the wellness of Black men and masculine adults, but also how it can impact community violence, violence towards women, towards Black women towards Black, Trans and Queer folks. So it really focuses on unlearning skills, tools, community building, so that Black men and masculine folks can have more people around them to help them reinforce new ways of being in the world that don't center misogyny, or transphobia, or homophobia. I'm really proud of that program. They just recently were awarded the LA 84 Foundation Champions Award for their work in the community, which I'm really proud of them. They're amazing. So those are two programs I'm really proud of. 

Other initiatives we have, our grant making initiatives. We believe that in order to cultivate wellness in our world, it has to go beyond BEAM. We have a really powerful, mighty team and network across the country, but it's going to take more than just us. We need to be in collaboration and deep collaboration. We have our Southern Healing Support Fund, which last year we partnered with Lipton. What we do with Southern Healing Support Fund is we give out funds to wellness leaders, people who are doing innovative projects in the rural South around healing and wellness. We see wellness really broadly. We don't see it just as talk therapy. Talk therapy is one amazing strategy, but we also have other strategies for wellness. So we've funded doulas. We funded a doula retreat, which is for prenatal folks, for people who are pregnant. They had like 60 people in church in Memphis, which was amazing. We also funded barbershop education, going into barber shops and training and teaching them different things, free our accessible therapy. That is a big part of our grant making initiative is really saying, if we get resources to BEAM, how do we also channel these resources into other parts of the community that may not necessarily get access to them across the country. And the South is of home to some of the biggest disparities in our country, just hands down. Then we have our Black Parent Support Fund, which gives economic resources specifically to Black parents who are living with mental conditions or supporting children living with a mental condition. That was really inspired by Kelli Lewis, who many people may know on she did an amazing Washington Post article, where she talked about her experience with her children, her son Ahav and Analiel. They both were living with mental conditions and talking about what she's learned navigating the system and the support that she needs. That was really inspired by talking to Kelli about what we need to do to support more parents. And then last but not least, we have our Black Wellness Innovation Fund, which we just kicked off with Healthline Media. That is to fund innovative projects around mental health and wellness across the country. We're focusing on Black trans women on Black gay men living with HIV, Black expectant folks (people who are expecting children) to make sure to have doula and birth support. And we're also focusing on trying to incentivize more Black therapists to do more group sessions, because we recognize that we're not going to one-on-one our way out of this crisis. And while one-on-one care is important, we need to also incentivize that, when you create a community of folks who can kind of support each other in that model, you can do a lot more impact. We're trying to incentivize a lot therapists who are like, "I don't know about group therapy." Let us give you some tools and strategies around what it means to have four people and building that because not all therapists receive those kind of facilitation group skills. So we're trying to figure out how to do that. So that is some of the things we have going on right. So it is a lot.

Solome Tibebu  7:33  

I don't think that's enough! Amazing, truly unbelievable. And for those that aren't familiar, I would love for you to explain why it's so important to take that community-based approach. It's obviously very powerful, but if you could shed a little light on that.

Yolo Akili Robinson 7:53  

I'm a big believer of "it takes a community to heal a community". The community-based approach is important in our communities, to me for a couple of reasons. One, I think it's so important to name that Black people in this country, up until relatively recently, and maybe people will say not even now, have never gone to therapy in large numbers. It's never been broadly accessible for us. We've had other strategies that we've navigated. Some of them were wonderful, and some of them need to be refined, and some of them may be not as useful. We've had other strategies for healing and wellness. Understanding that also the disparities and the inaccessibility of therapy as a strategy for many Black folks in the country who are at higher rates of not having health insurance. Income inequality. So if this is the reality of this particular approach, how do we do a multi-fold approach? How do we try to make this more accessible? But how do we also build up skills for everybody to know about what healing and mental health is, about how to respond to mental health crises? So the entire community is now built up and has a different skill set. We talked to many communities across the country, many folks don't have a therapist or psychiatrist in their community, but they may have a trusted what we call big momma's or a community activist or someone that people rely on and trust. How do we say, you're the person we're going to work with and support you in refining some of the skills because we have a lot of skills already, that's really important. But we'll refine the skills and also getting you connected to other resources. Because that's gonna be more sustainable. More community, more community support, and more people who have access is going to be more sustainable than just us trying to get more therapists. Because the reality is while we need to do that, we know that SAMHSA has issued several reports about 2025 being short 30,000 therapists that we need. There's no quick solution to that. It's gonna take time. So what other practitioners? Whether they're pastors, how do we get pastors trained to understand mental health more? And know their boundaries, but also have more language and discourse to listen and affirm and validate and support folks. How do we do that? And that's what I think of being a community is important because accessibility, income, and also we are collectivist communities. And I believe that's a big part of who we are.

Solome Tibebu  10:20  

This is, as I said over and over, truly incredible work. I'm so proud that we've had the opportunity to partner with BEAM through Going Digital: Behavioral Health Tech. And last question, how can our audience support your work?

Yolo Akili Robinson 10:37  

I tell people all the time that the way to support BEAM's work is to do your work. That's a big part of it. If you go to our website, you'll see many opportunities to engage even as a Black person. But also, as allies. I tell people all the time, while we do have specific things like our peer support spaces, which are only for Black folks. In our educational and training spaces, our allies are welcome. Even though we're very clear, it's very Black-centered. So you come into a space on a centered Black experience, but we have really amazing allies who come to learn and listen, and they're always welcome. So come to our trainings. Get involved in that way. You also can find  toolkits on our page, for everything from journal affirmation prompts, to tools about how to support someone with distress for various different diagnoses. Share those tools to your community. Have conversations with folks around those particular pieces. We have articles and books that you can link to. Educate yourself and your community, and really build up their capacity and your capacity. You also can do traditional routes, you can also donate. We'll always welcome any support. And of course, your support and the support of Going Digital: Behavioral Health Tech to really make that possible because it does take money to do the work. Definitely spreading the word, having conversation, engaging our tools, coming to our trainings and learning and sharing that with folks -- that's how we really transform the landscape of mental health and wellness in this country.

Solome Tibebu  11:57  

Excellent. Yolo, how could I thank you for your time and all of the incredible work that you're doing in so many communities. Thank you so much for being with us.

Yolo Akili Robinson 12:07  

Thank you so much for having me. And thank you the same to you because you were doing the same. So I appreciate you. I'm excited to learn more from you and the community. Thank you!

Learn more about BEAM here and make a contribution of any amount to the Southern Healing fund here.

HEALTH EQUITY
Aug 19, 2021
3 min. read

Going Beyond The Lab—Hopelab Commits to Social Good Ventures

Hopelab recently announced an external investment initiative—Hopelab Ventures—a commitment to partner with innovators, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders who advance the well-being of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ youth. I caught up with Dr. Danielle Ramo, Ph.D. to learn more.
Dr. Danielle Ramo

Hopelab recently announced an external investment initiative—Hopelab Ventures—a commitment to partner with innovators, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders who advance the well-being of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ youth. Since the social innovation lab’s founding, they’ve taken risks and looked for challenging and meaningful projects and partnerships that yield profound impact. Hopelab Ventures and their investees are passionate about the mental resilience of young people and dedicated to better serving members of their community through social impact. 

I got the chance to chat with Dr. Danielle Ramo, Ph.D., Senior Director of Research at Hopelab, about Hopelab Ventures and supporting BIPOC and LGBTQ+ youth:

You recently announced Hopelab Ventures! What is that about and who are some of the companies you're working with? 

Hopelab launched a small portfolio of investment ventures that address a diverse range of challenges facing BIPOC and/or LGBTQ+ youth. Each of our investees’ founding teams is passionate about the mental well-being of young people. 

The Hopelab Ventures portfolio includes: 

Hazel Health partners with schools to eliminate barriers to quality healthcare for all children. 

Equip delivers gold-standard eating disorder care through Family-based Treatment and was created by experts in the field and people with experience.

Hurdle provides Culturally Intentional Teletherapy with a focus on serving the Black community. 

Koko uses AI and machine learning to make mental health and well-being accessible to everyone, especially young adults and populations who have been traditionally underserved. 

You have discussed the emphasis on supporting BIPOC and LGBTQ+ youth at Hopelab in some Psychology Today posts, why is that an important focus in this day and age? 

Young people--Gen Z-ers and digital natives--are driving the innovation and technology of tomorrow. In order to create tools, interventions, and new platforms for youth, we need to meet them where they are and we also need to make sure we are focusing our investment and innovation lenses on the needs of youth that have not always been served. That’s why Hopelab Ventures is focusing on social impact investments that support mental health and well-being outcomes for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ young people. 

Read a short interview with Solome on this topic in my monthly Psychology Today column. 

What are some future Hopelab plans? 

Hopelab is excited to support both for-profit and nonprofit teams dedicated to improving and scaling impact, innovation, and entrepreneurship in the field of social good. If your organization is aligned with our focus areas (BIPOC, LGBTQ+ youth mental health and well-being) send us an email with a brief description on the business concept, market need, backgrounds of the founders and management, and how the organization will improve the health and well-being of young people. And let us know GDBHT sent you!

HEALTH EQUITY
Aug 12, 2021
5 min. read

How to Build a Diverse Leadership Team at a Mental Health Startup

Representation matters, especially when we’re talking about developing inclusive mental health solutions for all individuals. André Blackman, Founder and CEO of Onboard Health, shares his advice.
André Blackman

Representation matters, especially when we’re talking about developing inclusive mental health solutions for all individuals. I was delighted to have André Blackman, Founder and CEO of Onboard Health, as a speaker at this year’s conference. André’s entire career has centered at the intersection of public and community health, traditional medicine and digital health. Onboard Health is a specialized executive search and advisory firm focused on creating a more inclusive future of health. 

Many companies ask me how they can develop more inclusivity and belonging within their organizations. I want to share some great advice from André’s session about how mental health startups can approach creating more diverse leadership teams and inclusive work environments: 

What makes a huge impact for developing a culture of impact and inclusion at a mental health company?

If you’re looking at building an inclusive team, you need to take a look at your recruiting process. As a startup, it is easy to want to get immediate traction and throw your team together quickly, but being mindful and intentional about attracting talent and how you plan to retain talent is what matters. Consider the ways you can take an audit of your recruiting process to ensure there is a lens on inclusion and equity, including how and where you are sourcing candidates. Other questions to consider :

  • What is your employer brand? Is what you talk about externally matching up with what you are actually doing internally? 
  • When it comes to your brand, who is representing your company on stage at events or on marketing materials?
  • Mental health in underrepresented and marginalized communities: if you’re even close to attempting to innovate new solutions in mental health, your teams must reflect the communities you are trying to serve. 
  • Understand the history: learn how racism has and continues to impact healthcare overall. 

How should companies source talent appropriately?

Oftentimes, we look at our own circles of influence for candidates, which creates inherent bias in our pipeline. For the last several years, many would say “the talent pipeline isn’t there” when it came to DEI in hiring. No, in fact- the pipeline is out there. It’s really just about being intentional about finding other ways to source candidates. For example, what communities are already established that you can build relationships and partnerships with to build trust and gain familiarity with?

Meanwhile, looking at your leadership. We’re in healthcare. Trust is critical to how you are building your organization. At the same time, decisions about how your products and services are created and marketed ultimately leads back to the leadership team. The leadership team has the authority to drive all aspects of the services and products you’re building. When you have more diverse leadership within the organization, it will eventually impact every facet of your solutions. Keep that in mind as you hire diverse leaders throughout your team.   

Finally, if you are creating a culture of value for your team and organization, make sure to celebrate diversity and the contributions of individuals once they are on the team. These are the things that make the people in your organization feel like they are part of the mission and vision. If you want to build the right culture, it is absolutely critical that the employees building alongside of you at the company have voices and are comfortable using them. 

What if you don’t know where to start with even having these kinds of conversations with your team?

You don’t need to have all the answers. As a leader, just the mere fact that you are bringing up the topic that racial injustice is happening in our world, in our lives, and in our communities really sets the tone for strong leaderships and vulnerability that is needed to start having real conversations within your company. 

Take the first step of acknowledging that these are tough conversations, but they are necessary to build the future of health. 

Finally, consider getting some outside help to create a foundation for these kinds of discussions. Onboard Health is a leading one company working with senior leadership teams across healthcare organizations, you can find out more about them here: https://www.onboardhealth.co/

HEALTH EQUITY
Jul 22, 2021
4 min. read

Technology and Minority Mental Health Awareness Month

July is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. Unfortunately, racial/ethnic, gender, and sexual minorities often suffer from poor mental health outcomes.
Solome Tibebu

July is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. According to NAMI, Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month was established in May 2008 by Rep. Albert Wynn [D-MD] and cosponsored by a large bipartisan group to achieve two goals:

  1. Improve access to mental health treatment and services and promote public awareness of mental illness.
  2. Name a month as the Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month to enhance public awareness of mental illness and mental illness among minorities.

Unfortunately, racial/ethnic, gender, and sexual minorities often suffer from poor mental health outcomes due to multiple factors including inaccessibility of high quality mental health care services, cultural stigma surrounding mental health care, discrimination, and overall lack of awareness about mental health. Additionally, according to the APA, in 2015, 86% of psychologists in the U.S. workforce were white, 5% were Asian, 5% were Hispanic, 4% were black/African-American, and 1% were multiracial or from other racial/ethnic groups. This is less diverse than the U.S. population as a whole, which is 62% white and 38% racial/ethnic minority.

Last year, we started the conversation about technology could be the great equalizer for engaging more diverse populations to gain access to mental health care despite increased stigma and provider shortages. We talked to experts like Dr. Alfiee Breland-Noble of the AAKOMA Project, Ashley Edwards of MindRight, Hector Colón-Rivera of CreearConSalud, and more.   

This year, we had several sessions underscoring the importance of culturally competent care, including Kevin Dedner, Founder and CEO of Hurdle Health; Dr. Juliette McLendon, Ph.D., Director of Medical Affairs at Big Health and Dr. Jenna Carl, Ph.D, VP of Clinical Development & Medical Affairs at Big Health; Dr. Wizdom Powell, PhD, of UConn Health; Gaurang Choksi, Founder & CEO of Violet; Andre Blackman, Founder & CEO of Onboard Health; Lauren Elliot, Founder & CEO of Candlelit; and our very own, Solome Tibebu, hosting a panel with some of her Upswing Fund for Adolescent Mental Health grant recipients who focus on supporting BIPOC adolescent mental health. Log into our free behavioral health tech though leadership library for free to watch each of their sessions from last month. 

One of our GDBHT sponsors, Hurdle Health, published a paper on Black mental health focused on the mental health landscape before and after George Floyd's death, including how his death and the social justice movement birthed in its wake have resulted in various forms of trauma for people of color.

The paper is co-authored by leading mental health researchers Dr. Harold "Woody" Neighbors, Professor Emeritus, University of Michigan School of Public Health, and Dr. Norma L. Day-Vines, Associate Dean for Diversity and Faculty Development in the School of Education at Johns Hopkins University. The white paper can be downloaded here.  The white paper includes a powerful foreword co-authored by former U.S. Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, founder of The Kennedy Forum, and 16th U.S. Surgeon General and Four-Star Admiral Dr. David Satcher. 

Going Digital: Behavioral Health Tech’s 2021 non-profit partner BEAM (Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective) is a national training, movement-building, and grant-making institution that is dedicated to the healing, wellness, and liberation of Black and marginalized communities. Learn more about them below and consider making a donation here