HEALTH EQUITY

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

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HEALTH EQUITY
B2B
Jan 18, 2024
5 min. read

Defining the Social Determinants of Mental Health

Traditional social determinants are a starting point. But for significant improvement in mental health, they don’t go far enough. Achieving equity in behavioral health care requires that we define the social determinants of mental health (SDOMH).
Malekeh Amini

Social determinants of health (SDOH) account for as much as 80% of person’s modifiable health factors and 50% of their overall health outcomes. Thankfully, the healthcare community now understands that access to quality food, primary care services, safe housing, and transportation all significantly impact health outcomes. Those societal challenges are rightly now the focus of large-scale government programs and community-based efforts.

But what about mental health? 

Traditional social determinants such as housing and food are certainly critical to consider. However, we also know this: Two children with the exact same health and demographic profiles could respond very differently to behavioral health treatment. Why? One of them may be impacted by a more challenging home environment—an unsupportive parent, a stressful relationship with a sibling, a cultural difference in attitudes toward mental health treatment.

In this context, the traditional social determinants are a starting point. But for significant improvement in mental health, they don’t go far enough. Achieving equity in behavioral health care requires that we define the social determinants of mental health (SDOMH).

What are SDOMH?

Where traditional social determinants of health are broad building blocks that may impact mental health, the social determinants of mental health include the granular non-medical drivers of health that are unique to individuals. 

In other words, everyone in a particular neighborhood will be experiencing the same broad social determinants of health, and a ZIP code-based intervention—such as adding bus routes or expanding food pantry hours—may improve physical health for all residents in the same manner. 

However, the brain is much more complicated. To make a meaningful impact on an individual’s mental health, we must understand all the additional factors that combine to create the individual’s unique experience. 

Some examples:

  • Do cultural factors make food insecurity particularly traumatic for this person? 
  • Is a teen tasked with caring for a disabled sibling in a community that lacks social services? 
  • Did this child’s mother suffer from perinatal or postpartum depression?

These are questions not only to ask, but also to measure, track, and incorporate into day-to-day care.

Trauma-Informed Care

This approach to social determinants of mental health enables clinicians to provide what Roshni Koli, MD, refers to as trauma-informed care. I shared a stage at HLTH 2023 with Dr. Koli, Chief Medical Officer of the Meadows Institute, to discuss how incorporating SDOMH data could change the way patients are managed in the clinic. As she explained: To understand a patient’s clinical presentation, we must consider two things—what happened to them, and what their environment looks like.

Collecting this type of historical and environmental data has proven elusive to the behavioral health community, however. Environmental observations typically exist only in unstructured physician notes or paper forms, where they cannot be easily accessed or integrated into diagnoses and treatment plans.

The Trayt platform was built to bring this type of data into day-to-day care. The platform tracks and measures 750 different factors that all influence mental health, including physical symptoms, behavioral symptoms, broad social determinants of health, granular environmental factors, and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Clinical data from providers is assimilated with critical between-visit symptom and environment data, which is collected through a patient- and caregiver-facing application from the people who know the individual the best. Together, the data develops a 360-degree personalized view of the patient.

The New Paradigm

Behavioral health treatment looks very different through a 360-degree lens. It takes into account a person’s entire experience rather than treating one symptom at a time. It enables providers to collaborate with caregivers and social services agencies in putting individualized support systems in place—not broad band-aids—to ensure treatment success. And, it empowers patients with respectful, holistic care.

Going forward, the challenge for all of us in the behavioral health care community is to ensure we are using SDOMH data in ways that contribute to care rather than hinder it. 

From a clinical perspective, Dr. Koli reminds us to approach patients with cultural humility to avoid implicit bias in the ways we treat patients. From a technological standpoint, Trayt is focused on making the data meaningful by tracking patient outcomes. It is not enough just to collect SDOMH data. We must be able to demonstrate that we’re using it to help patients get better.

Article written by Malekeh Amini, Founder and CEO, Trayt Health.

HEALTH EQUITY
B2B
Nov 7, 2023
8 min. read

Improving Mental Health Across Generations with Trayt Health

Maternal mental health is a family concern.
Marnie Hayutin

Research continues to show that perinatal and postpartum mental health issues have long-term adverse effects on babies, siblings, and spouses.

  • In utero, babies of depressed mothers are exposed to high levels of cortisol, which increases their risk for ADHD, anxiety disorders, and depression later in life.
  • Perinatal depression has been linked to excessive crying in infants, impaired parent-child interactions, and low birth weight or prematurity.
  • Sixteen-year-olds exposed to postpartum depression are almost five times more likely to be depressed than peers who were not exposed to postpartum depression.
  • Men whose partners experience postpartum depression have a 2.5 times higher risk of developing depression themselves.

Clinicians are increasingly discovering that maternal mental health treatment is a community effort, as well. Statewide Perinatal Psychiatry Access Programs are connecting OB/GYNs, family and internal medicine practitioners, and other specialists to reproductive psychiatrists who can help them manage their patients. As a result, families are getting the help they need, wherever they are, and much sooner in the process.

Trayt Health is the technology company behind some of the country’s most successful maternal mental health Access Programs, including the Perinatal Psychiatry Access Network (PeriPAN) in Texas.

Why is the statewide Psychiatry Access Program model so effective for maternal mental health?

Whether it’s pre-pregnancy, during pregnancy, or postpartum, an OB/GYN is often the first point of contact for an individual experiencing a mental health challenge—and a first resource for a spouse seeking help for a partner. Most OBs, however, are not equipped on their own to treat reproductive mental health.

The Access Program model is designed to connect OBs and primary care providers to psychiatry specialists who can help them manage their patients in their own clinics. Far too often, maternal mental health issues are not treated until they become severe postpartum depression with long-term impacts for the entire family. With education and support from a reproductive psychiatrist, OBs can learn to recognize early signs of distress and provide effective treatment right away.

What technology is needed for effective statewide care coordination?

First, the Trayt platform provides connectivity between the providers. Mental health is always a team effort, addressing complicated issues that require collaboration and coordination.

The most effective Maternal Mental Health Access Programs are statewide, connecting OBs and other primary care providers throughout the state into the major health systems and research institutions where reproductive psychiatry specialists are standing by to support them. From a technological standpoint, it’s a significant accomplishment to break silos and connect organizations and institutions that do not typically work together.

Additionally, statewide programs need technology that can track treatments and measure patient outcomes. The Trayt platform enables programs to measure success not just by engagement metrics, but by whether or not their patients are getting better.

Together, connectivity and measurement enable an effective model for early intervention that prevents maternal mental health challenges from progressing into family crises.

Access Programs started with child psychiatry. What unique program and technology considerations are needed for maternal mental health?

Many state program leaders may not realize that maternal mental health and child mental health are closely connected. You cannot treat a pregnant or postpartum individual and not think about the child. OBs and pediatricians must coordinate care so that mental health treatment extends to address the long-term mental health needs of the developing child.

A key consideration for a maternal mental health program is to acknowledge the interconnectivity and facilitate seamless transitions between the two types of programs. In other words, the technology platform must facilitate seamless coordination between providers and between Access Programs. Unless you build an integrated program, there will be gaps in care between the mom’s depression and the child’s health and development.

As another example, a pregnant teen would receive care from both a pediatrician and an OB. From a mental health perspective, this individual would need the expertise of a child and adolescent psychiatry specialist, as well as a reproductive psychiatrist to ensure prenatal and postpartum medications are safe for fetal development, compatible with breastfeeding, etc. A technology platform supporting these providers would need to move smoothly between programs—without gaps or friction—to ensure they can collaborate and coordinate care.

What long-term impact will we see as a community by improving access to maternal mental health care?

Where do we begin? Maternal mental health issues can be incredibly debilitating for a mom, and the impact can be devastating for families. Tragically, suicide accounts for 20% of postpartum deaths. Among individuals who develop the most severe postpartum psychosis, 5% will commit suicide, and 4% will also kill a child.

Even in less severe cases, postpartum depression affects lactation, alters the parent-child bond, creates stress for partners and older siblings, and increases the risk of long-term mental health challanges for the baby.

Maternal mental health programs may sound narrow and targeted at first glance, but when deployed community-wide, they can change the trajectory for an entire generation.

Where can we learn more about Trayt Health?

Please visit our website at Trayt.Health to learn why our technology is the only platform with the scale and functionality to fully support statewide Access Programs.

You can also find a video at this link that explains how we are supporting the work of the Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium. Trayt-supported programs are expanding access across the state, bringing equitable behavioral health care to patients where they are. To date, TCMHCC programs and services are available to more than 3.5 million students, and they support more than 11,500 enrolled providers. A successful pilot program in maternal mental health was just expanded statewide.

And, we’re proud to be a Platinum Sponsor of Going Digital’s Behavioral Health Tech 2023. Come see us in Booth 203!

HEALTH EQUITY
B2B
Oct 26, 2023
3 min. read

Unveiling the Companies Attending BHT2023: Paving the Way to Better Mental Healthcare

A glimpse into the array of companies and organizations set to play a role at the 2023 Behavioral Health Tech (BHT2023) conference. 
Solome Tibebu

In just a few weeks, thought leaders, innovators, and change-makers are converging for the 2023 Behavioral Health Tech (BHT2023) conference. 

BHT2023 creates an environment where ideas flow freely, solutions abound, and a shared mission unites attendees - the mission to improve access to mental health and substance use care through technology, while promoting health equity and inspiring innovation. 

From November 15th to 17th, 2023, the conference will take place at the Arizona Biltmore Waldorf Astoria in Phoenix, with virtual attendance options, bringing together a diverse range of participants.

BHT2023 brings together a mosaic of stakeholders, including health plans, health systems, employers and benefits consultants, digital health companies, investors, policy and advocacy organizations, and more.

The list below is a glimpse into the array of companies and organizations set to play a role at BHT2023. 

Health Plans

  1. Aetna / CVS Health
  2. Amerihealth Caritas
  3. Blue Cross Blue Shield (AK, AZ, CA, IL, MA, MN, NC, SC, and more!)
  4. Carelon Behavioral Health
  5. Centene Corporation
  6. Cigna
  7. Humana
  8. Kaiser Permanente 
  9. Optum 
  10. UnitedHealthcare

Health Systems

  1. Acadia Healthcare
  2. Boston Children’s
  3. Commonspirit Health System
  4. Embark Behavioral Health
  5. Intermountain Health
  6. Kennedy Krieger Institute (Johns Hopkins Affiliate)
  7. Meadows Behavioral Care
  8. MedStar Health Research Institute
  9. Universal Health Services (UHS)
  10. Rogers Behavioral Health

Employers & Benefits Consultants

  1. Amazon
  2. Aon
  3. Deloitte
  4. Google
  5. Gallagher
  6. Lockton
  7. Mercer
  8. Nationwide Insurance
  9. Walgreens Boots Alliance
  10. WTW

Digital Health Companies

  1. Brightline
  2. Brightside Health
  3. Ellipsis Health
  4. Headspace
  5. Lyra
  6. Modern Health
  7. Nomi Health
  8. Owl
  9. Spring Health
  10. Trayt Health

Investors 

  1. .406 Ventures
  2. 7wire Ventures
  3. Andreessen Horowitz (a16z)
  4. Cigna Ventures
  5. Echo Health Ventures
  6. Flare Capital
  7. General Catalyst
  8. Hopelab Ventures
  9. Magnify Ventures
  10. Transformation Capital

Policy and Advocacy

  1. American Medical Association
  2. American Psychological Association
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  4. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
  5. Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute
  6. Mental Health America
  7. National Council for Mental Wellbeing
  8. National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  9. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
  10. US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

Together, these companies and attendees will help pave the way for a future where mental health and substance use care are not just accessible but truly transformative, offering hope and healing to individuals worldwide. 

For the full list of companies attending BHT2023, click here.

HEALTH EQUITY
POLICY
Oct 19, 2023
7 min. read

Unlocking Multiple Front Doors: Meeting Patients Where They Are with Life-saving Mental Health Care

Many complicated factors influence how, when, and where an individual decides to get care, implying there isn't a single "digital front door" but multiple entry points.
Solome Tibebu

There are more mental health and substance use point solutions than ever, so how are health plans, employers, and, most importantly, patients to know which solution they should use to forge a path to meaningful behavioral health outcomes? We brought together health plans, providers, investors, and more at HLTH 2023 to learn how the healthcare ecosystem can better bridge the supply-demand conundrum in behavioral health while prioritizing affordability, access, and seamless patient experiences.

Brad Kittredge, founder and CEO of Brightside Health discussed how to meet patients where they are to better deliver life-saving mental health care with Dr. Douglas Nemecek, Chief Medical Officer of Behavioral Health at Evernorth Behavioral Health. Read highlights from their conversation below. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

Dr. Nemecek, what do you see as the primary barriers that are stopping people from receiving behavioral health care?

Most of us don't know how to easily access health care—specifically, the right type of health care. We need to do a better job of helping people find more appropriate care, especially regarding mental and behavioral health. Limited time for appointments, a lack of patient self-advocacy, and a provider shortage are also barriers to behavioral health care. However, leveraging technology is working to help expand access and make it more convenient for people.

Is there any evidence to show that people are getting behavioral health care sooner, thanks to the availability of digital health tools?

The data is definitely encouraging, showing us digital solutions are improving access to care for individuals. Before, people would go through three to five different providers before sticking with one and getting the care they need. This takes too much time, and people likely won't re-engage. Now, we're seeing people engaging sooner and quicker and not having to try as many different providers or clinicians before they connect with somebody who is truly engaged. The more we can simplify this journey for people, the sooner they'll receive care, and we'll start seeing better outcomes.

It sounds like we can be reasonably optimistic that some of the things we've all bet on are starting to make a difference in the way that people are seeking and receiving care. With that, do you have a point of view on the various digital front doors people use?

One of the things that we need to acknowledge is that there isn't just one front door that will work for everybody. We've gotten better with our ability to personalize care journeys for individuals so that we can address their specific needs and use cases. But to do that, we have to have multiple front doors to engage people where they are and when they're ready to commit to care. That's where digital solutions come into play – creating new front doors via the web and apps to expand access, making it easier to connect, and adding more variety and opportunity to personalize care.

It’s great these front doors are bringing more people into care—but what's next? What's the next step in ensuring these solutions are adding value?

To deliver coordinated, impactful care, we need to start measuring outcomes. As a specialty, we haven't done much from a measurement perspective over the last 30 years, but that's where we see the future heading – measuring who's getting better and how they are getting better. It's about keeping the patient at the center of what we do so we can further personalize care and optimize outcomes so each individual can better function at work, at home, and in their community.

What are you looking for from the providers you partner with? How are you engaging with them, and what are you asking of them?

So many investments and innovations focus on how we deliver behavioral health care today. But as a psychiatrist, I know we must find better ways to deliver care at scale to people needing help. That requires strong partnerships with providers that enable us to take something to market in a way that improves access and outcomes. They need to prioritize measurement, help improve the therapeutic alliance, and demonstrate that they can make that initial match with a patient in a way that really works for the patient. And they need to help us increase our diversity so we can make sure we can make meaningful connections with each patient. It’s really about having all the right pieces so that we can optimize the care journey and optimize the care outcomes. These are some of the things we're focused on at Evernorth to drive outcomes in a scalable, sustainable way.

The Behavioral Health Tech Conference in November will continue to shine a light on ideas and solutions that improve access to mental and behavioral health care, pulling in perspectives from health plans, employers, behavioral health providers, digital health companies, investors, policymakers, and more so that we can continue making progress for people in need of care.

We’re looking forward to more discussions like this one, and we hope you’ll join us either in person or online. Register today!

HEALTH EQUITY
B2C
Aug 10, 2023
4 min. read

How Generations of Mental Health Unicorns are Building the Foundation for a New Era of Care

The past decade has been merely the tip of an immense iceberg. A multi-decade transformation to unlock progress in mental health is now in full swing.
Andrew Barr, Partner at GreyMatter Capital

There’s no doubt we’re in the midst of a mental health startup boom. With hundreds of new mental health companies having been created over the past few decades, we’ve now seen first generations of mental health unicorns that have built the infrastructure to accelerate this industry in years to come.

Generation 1: Employer Channels

Generation 2: Network-Based

  • Driver: The second generation of mental health unicorns has been driven by employers pushing payors to expand their networks and access to therapists amidst a growing clinician shortage, in addition to new developments in policy such as those improving compliance with The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act.
  • Company Model: These companies have focused on building network-based, fee-for-service channels. By utilizing marketplace models, these companies have helped bring more clinicians in-network by reducing back office costs for clinicians, while making it easier for consumers to find and book them. As technology platforms, these marketplaces have the opportunity to better optimize networks over time through enhanced measurement and matching.
  • Outcome: As a result, as of late 2022, in network behavioral health providers had grown 48% in three years. Having achieved a sizable improvement in access, quality is becoming the next priority.

Generation 3: Specialist Providers

  • Driver: A new set of companies are being built today driven by an increased payor focus on value and outcomes. Payors are now recognizing the ROI potential for targeting specific populations that have historically been high cost-drivers. While not unicorns yet, these companies appear to be on that trajectory.
  • Company Model: These companies deliver specialized approaches for specific conditions or population, driven by an increased payor focus on value and outcomes. Companies such as Firsthand and Vanna have focused on SMI/crisis care, whereas companies such as Equip have focused on eating disorders, and NOCD on OCD.
  • Outcome: These companies are driving quality by creating entirely new care models, with novel approaches for treating disorders that aren’t being tried elsewhere. Over time, we imagine a bundling and reselling of these specialist solutions, utilizing the foundational channels of the first two generations in order to further accelerate progress in this industry.
HEALTH EQUITY
ADOLESCENTS
Jun 29, 2023
8 min. read

How Hopelab’s imi App Is Helping LGBTQ+ Teens Everywhere With Their Mental Health

imi is a research-backed mental health tool that serves LGBTQ+ teens. While there are companies dedicated to helping the LGBTQ+ community with crisis situations, there is more that needs to be made available. 
China Campbell

Hopelab is an innovative company that is taking strides to break the barriers of the stigma with mental health and help LGBTQ+ teens to connect with mental health services. Hopelab has created an app titled imi to help these teens with their mental health. We spoke with the team about their app and how it is changing the way of the future for these teens. 

Research-backed mental health tool for LGBTQ+ teens

imi is a research-backed mental health tool that serves LGBTQ+ teens. The digital tool was co-created with Hopelab, It Gets Better, and Centerlink for teens to be able to explore and affirm their identity. While there are companies dedicated to helping the LGBTQ+ community with crisis situations, such as the Trevor Lifeline and the Trans Lifeline, who can help them in their moment of crisis, there is more that needs to be made available. 

imi focuses on four topic-based guides: stress, queerness, stigma, and gender. These topics are based on research and what research says they need most, but also, what youths are saying that they need most. The highly interactive app includes science-backed activities, resources, and learning moments. These aids have all been backed by the science of what works for the youths. 

There were many youths' voices that were involved in the project and those voices are represented within the tools themselves and represent many intersectional identities, which enables you to use imi to hear from others who are like them, to not feel alone, and understand other people's journeys as well. In addition, the imi project worked with a lot of queer artists, designers, and illustrators, many of which are young people themselves, to really develop the artwork and visual design as the web app. Youths were key in testing the visual designs, and they really ensured that the tool feels especially relevant to all in the community, including those teens of black, indigenous, and other teens of color. 

We know that there are big disparities in mental health for LGBTQ+ teens, and that is the reasoning behind why this app was developed, to give them a greater sense of support, a better sense of ability to explore and affirm that identity, and then also to help manage some of the stressors that come up living in a world that doesn't always affirm and is sometimes outrights hostile. In particular, with the legislative climate we are seeing right now these young people need tools that really boost them up and let them know that they are not alone. That is the main goal of imi. Many of the concerns of other resources can feel sterile, with meditation, and then you are back in the real world, which can be stressful and overwhelming. There is a lot of care with imi, and there is a human aspect of it that shows just how caring and thoughtful the app is. There is a hope that the teens who use the app can sense the love, care, and effort put into building the app and making it what it is today. 

Hopelab’s Product Research

Hopelab wants to make sure that they are making products that people love and adore, and that are accessible so that their partners can get the products out to the public. They also want to make sure that they can prove some level of efficacy or impact on the actual outcomes that the products provide. 

They partnered with the University of Pennsylvania and their Program on Sexuality, Technology, and Action Research (PSTAR) team to have imi tested in a randomized controlled trial. The aim of the trial was to really understand if the intervention itself have an impact on some of the pieces they were trying to move. They ended up working with them to get a diverse sample of teens from all around the country, with 270 teens through social media ads to participate. A major goal of this study was to evaluate the response from teens who are experiencing multiple stressors and to see if they were finding success with the app. The trial paired the study participants with either imi or another group tool, Asterisk, and evaluated their progress at multiple points throughout their trial. The imi group continuously saw improvement in the participants coping skills and coping resources over those using Asterisk. 

One interesting addition to the app is the use of a quick exit button within the app. This is on each screen and allows the user to quickly back out of the app if they are suddenly in an unsafe space or if someone approaches them and they do not want them to be seen using the app. This simple design feature just adds to the overall thoughtfulness and depth of the app, as well as the caring that went into it. There is also a timeout feature on the app, and after 10 minutes of inactivity, it will timeout and default to another site. This is another level of protection for the user so that there is less risk of the young person being unintentionally outed to family members, friends, or others. 

Every aspect of this app is based on the safety, comfort, and accessibility of the user while creating a safe place for understanding themselves and their ability to progress. The feedback has shown that the teens using the app appreciate the thought that went into these features, as it shows how much people on either side care about the lives and well-being of these teens, who are not safe in some cases. These additions are some of the intentionalities that set imi apart from a catch-all like many other mental health resources are. imi recognized that mental health is not a problem that needs to be solved, but that it is a progressive level of queer mental health. 

There is a lot of potential for an app like this. There is also hope that LGBTQ leaders will be able to use imi in a community setting in order to better connect with the teens. This also could be used as a tool with therapists to help the teens to better understand themselves and come back to therapy ready to discuss their concerns with their therapists. imi is free to anyone and everyone. 

For more information on imi, click here. 

HEALTH EQUITY
Jun 1, 2023
8 min. read

Addressing the Provider Shortage With Accessible and Equitable Mental Healthcare Through Meomind

We talked with Co-Founder and CEO Sushant Gupta about how Meomind works, its benefits, and why this could be a possible path for future of scalable mental healthcare.
Sushant Gupta, Co-Founder and CEO of Meomind

The shortage of mental health providers has reached critical levels, leaving countless individuals without timely access to the care they desperately need. To compound the issue, the lack of diversity and specialization in licensed professionals further exacerbates the challenges faced by marginalized populations. In response to these pressing concerns, Meomind offers an innovative solution that provides unlimited access to pre-recorded psychotherapy sessions, organized by topic areas, for individuals seeking mental health support.

We know the provider shortage situation is dire in mental health, but how bad is it, exactly? 

For every 1,000 individuals seeking psychotherapy, there are only 3 licensed mental health professionals available to provide care, resulting in many individuals being unable to access the help they need in a timely manner. This shortage is further exacerbated by the lack of licensed professionals from diverse cultural backgrounds and those with specific experience in working with POC and LGBTQI+ populations. 

I understand that Meomind provides unlimited access to pre-recorded psychotherapy sessions organized by the topic area between other clients and therapists. This is a really interesting approach! Tell us more about how it works.

Meomind is an app that provides access to 500+ pre-recorded evidence-based therapy sessions between licensed therapists and clients. These sessions are organized by topic areas, such as stress, anxiety, depression, relationship issues, and more. 

When members open the app, they get a personalized therapy plan based on their demographics, presenting problems, and clinical assessment. Each session is typically between 10-30 minutes long and features a therapist guiding a client through a specific mental health concern. 

Members can listen to as many sessions as they like, and as often as they like. The therapists in each session are all licensed and experienced, and the sessions are recorded with the intention of providing clinical guidance and support. 

It's important to note that Meomind is not intended to replace one-on-one therapy. However, it can be a helpful supplement to therapy or a convenient and accessible option for members who may not have the time or resources to seek in-person therapy.   It also offers an innovative way to provide support to those that are looking for alternatives.

Meomind expands access to clinically-effective evidence-based mental health care while reducing costs and stigma.

What are common questions clients and health plans have with your model? 

Who is using it?

Meomind is an inclusive platform designed to serve a broad range of issues. It is also able to cater to a wider range of demographic populations such as teens, people of color, LGBTQ+, parents, etc. In general, Meomind's platform is designed to be accessible and inclusive and to support members with a wide range of life challenges. This includes those who may be experiencing stress, anxiety, depression, burnout, relationship issues, grief, parent/child issues, or other mental health challenges.

How has it benefited those who have used it?

80% of members using our program have shown significant improvement within 2-3 weeks of using Meomind. 30% have also reported a reduced need to access psychotherapy services independently. In addition, 42% have also reported an increase in their work productivity, while 48% indicated they feel less burned out at work.

What happens if someone has an urgent need for help while using it?

Meomind provides emergency resources and hotlines for members who need immediate support. These resources are available 24/7 and can be accessed directly from the Meomind platform. We also collaborate with the health plans to refer to their in-network provider resources. 

Are dependents covered?

Yes! All dependents are covered FREE of charge. They can all make their individual accounts on Meomind and the privacy of all members is protected.

Does Meomind replace therapy?

No. We designed Meomind to make therapy more accessible, NOT to replace traditional 1-on-1 therapy.

With Meomind, members listen to recorded therapy sessions with licensed mental health professionals. That means members get 24/7 access to evidence-based therapy, so members can explore our program at their own pace.

For some members, Meomind is enough on its own, while others use Meomind in addition to 1-on-1 therapy.

How is this the future of scalable mental healthcare?

Meomind leverages technology to provide on-demand mental health support that is accessible and affordable. Here are some key reasons why Meomind is the future of mental health:

  • Scalable: Meomind is designed to reach a large number of members simultaneously. Our platform can host and distribute a virtually unlimited number of pre-recorded therapy sessions making it possible to provide mental health support to a large number of people simultaneously.
  • Affordable: Meomind's platform can provide a cost-effective solution for payers and employers who are concerned about the long wait times their members often experience when trying to make appointments for therapy. 
  • Accessible: Meomind is available on-demand, 24/7, to anyone with a smartphone, making it a convenient option for members who may not be able to schedule in-person therapy sessions due to their work or personal schedules. This makes it possible for those who live in rural or remote areas, or who may not have access to mental health resources to receive support.
  • High quality: Meomind offers only the highest quality evidence-based sessions led by licensed mental health professionals. This approach has been found to have a significant clinical impact - over 80% of members report a reduction in anxiety and depression in 2-3 weeks. 30% also report a reduced intent to seek therapy. More than 50,000 members have used our program with a high satisfaction rating of 4.9 on the App Store. 
  • Innovative: Increasingly, health plans are forced to find ways to offer differentiation in products and services while finding ways to address access to care issues.  We believe our solution is an innovative way for health plans to demonstrate market differentiation while addressing access to care challenges.

Where can we learn more about Meomind? 

If you're interested in learning more about Meomind, you can visit our website at meomind.com or check out our FAQs at meomind.com/faqs. If you want to see what our program looks like, feel free to check out our demo video here. If you have any specific questions, you can contact us directly through our website or via email at care@meomind.com and set up a demo of our program. 

HEALTH EQUITY
May 31, 2023
4 min. read

Google's Mental Health and Health Equity Leaders Discuss: Enabling Technology to Aid Health Literacy

With technology at the base of advancement in behavioral health, there are many things that can be done in order to help better reach and better serve the patient receiving care. 
China Campbell

We spoke with Dr. Megan Jones Bell and Dr. Ivor Horn, from Google, to find out how technology can aid in the advancement of health literacy and accessibility to care for patients.

How Tech Can Help

Dr. Horn believes that technology is going to transform healthcare. It can help to remove the inequity of healthcare with everyone having access to healthcare. There is a focus on how to build health equity into the DNA of the products offered through technology at Google. 

Dr. Bell discussed that investment has been a major player in the adaption of technology for behavioral healthcare. It has allowed the connection between services and bridged different levels of care across the spectrum. Another major player was the regulation of digital health apps. The regulation took time and is ever-changing, but that is a key shift that should be recognized. 

Consolidations have also been a large part of the expansion of digital tech for behavioral health. Companies that have horizontally or vertically combined and cover more diagnostic conditions or comorbidities have brought the transition of behavioral healthcare into focus with investment and a priority of the expansion of digital behavioral health technology. These big changes are making sure that digital behavioral health care actually gets into the hands of people. 

Dr. Bell discussed how the realization that the progress over these apps and platforms is an actual person’s life and progress helps to drive the tech and help engage with patients clinically.  

Google’s Focus

The goals of the team at Google include providing access to high-quality information and resources. Google tries to analyze how users interact with searches, YouTube, Fitbit, the Google Assistant, and assess the different points of potential intervention for them. Google is trying to see how they can combine different aspects of care to support people and resources together. They want to assure that their products and services are equitable. Google wants to make sure that they are inclusive and that they are covering disparities. They incorporate the possibilities of disparities into every aspect of their products. Recently, they included the capability of finding a doctor who speaks their language and takes their insurance. This is just another way that Google is increasing its inclusivity in its products. 

Dr. Horn gave the example that when there is a search for food, they want to make sure that the search populates not just restaurants, but also food pantries and affordable grocery stores. Another example was on the search for medical care to find out if they are covered under different insurances, Medicare, and Medicaid. Recently, they included the capability of finding a doctor who speaks their language and takes their insurance. These methods of inclusivity assure that all persons' needs are met appropriately within the Google ecosystem. They continue to adapt by thinking about those whose needs they are not meeting, by creating high-quality, evidence-based information and resources, and by bringing that information to the people who need it. It really is a matter of meeting people where they are with the care that they need. 

HEALTH EQUITY
ADOLESCENTS
May 23, 2023
6 min. read

Join the Mission of Providing Free Virtual Emotional Support Services to Adolescents and Individuals Struggling with Mental Health in California

In California, Alter Health Group is working towards bridging this gap through its innovative approach to mental health care.
Michael Castanon

Mental and emotional well-being are integral components of an individual's overall health. The ongoing pandemic has further intensified the need for accessible and affordable mental health support services. However, despite increased awareness and resources, individuals still face significant barriers when it comes to accessing quality mental health support services.

In 2020, Alter Health Group was awarded a federal grant that allowed them to provide over 35,000 encounters for free. As a multi-grant recipient, they have conducted extensive research and analysis to ensure the efficacy of the care they provide and the positive outcomes for their clients. Their scientific approach, utilizing sub-clinical staff and measuring outcomes through their Care Predictor and Strategic Alliance Inventory (SAI), ensures that their clients receive high-quality care. Under the leadership of Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Loren Martin, groundbreaking research has been conducted to develop the Care Predictor. Driven by the curiosity to quantify the level of care offered by our agency and measure empathy, Dr. Martin discovered a scientifically validated method to achieve this goal.

The Care Predictor evaluates the care provider's attributes and forecasts their ability to create and sustain a therapeutic alliance with the care seeker. This approach ensures that establishing and maintaining such an alliance remains a top priority. Alter Health Group's care providers have excelled in this regard, achieving an impressive average score of 4.5 out of 5. This puts them in the 87th percentile, demonstrating their exceptional ability to foster and maintain strong therapeutic relationships.

Alter Health Group was recently awarded a $5M grant in service from the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA) to provide chat-based support with the BeWellLine to provide voice-based support. Tell us more!

Recently, Alter Health Group was awarded a $5M grant to partner with CalHOPE, a statewide effort that provides behavioral health crisis counseling services to adolescents, college-aged individuals, and those who require long-term or chronic support after a treatment episode. Through this partnership between Alter Health Group and CalHOPE, Alter Health Group will provide 24/7 support with a staff of 70 peers who offer video, chat, and call-based support for mental wellness and emotional support. They will offer these services through their free emotional support line, the BeWellLine and their virtual platform, Mindfuli, which enables peer counselors to refer help seekers to higher levels of care as needed, connecting them to a personalized mental health provider in minutes.

How will the Mindfuli platform be leveraged to provide free ongoing virtual peer counseling services to people struggling with suicide, addiction, and mental illness?

The Mindfuli platform allows individuals to schedule appointments with care providers for ongoing support. It utilizes measurement-based care to assess through a diagnostic approach, which leads to better-informed care providers and better engagement. The data-informed approach ensures all stakeholders use the information to provide person-centric care. The virtual platform provides better access and equity to care, especially for individuals living in remote rural locations. Through video support, clients receive better connection and support.

Additionally, 24/7 chat support and call-based services are available in crisis situations. The virtual platform also offers access to virtual groups and a comprehensive, culturally-informed list of groups to provide group settings for individuals going through similar issues. And the best part? This service is provided for free!

Alter Health Group's approach is designed to meet individuals where they're at, offering early intervention and support to prevent escalation and avoid emergency room visits or psychiatric hospitalizations. Prevention is a key factor in their approach, and their free resources provide a diversion effectively. If individuals need to be referred to a higher level of care, they can refer clients to appropriate resources after triaging.

Where can Californians learn more about how to access the service, or how can providers in the state learn more about sharing this free resource with their clients?

Accessing Care:

Californians can learn more about accessing these free mental health services by visiting their website at www.bewellline.com. Individuals who need support can also call the BeWellLine at 866-349-6854. 

Partnership Opportunities:

BeWellLine is looking for organizations that want to join the mission of supporting adolescents, college-aged individuals, and those who require long-term/chronic support after a treatment episode with these free resources. Organizations including schools, non-profits, behavioral health organizations, and treatment providers can partner with Alter Health Group to provide this free support. The services must be provided to Californians. To get in touch, please email outreach@bewellline.com. 

HEALTH EQUITY
Apr 4, 2023
6 min. read

Achieving an Antiracist Health System That Helps People of Color to Thrive

The Commonwealth Fund helps policymakers understand how systems and policies contribute to inequities and also highlights potential solutions.
China Campbell

The Commonwealth Fund is a nonprofit healthcare research foundation that supports work through grants to create an equitable, high-performing healthcare system. Their focus is on improving the healthcare system, promoting high-quality comprehensive healthcare, and addressing maternal equity and equitable access to able healthcare and behavioral healthcare in the context of driving policy change. 

Focus of Help

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, 2 out of 5 adults are reporting symptoms of anxiety or depression, and children’s behavioral health issues are rising. Some 200,000 people have lost someone during this pandemic, which alone has a different set of implications. Older adults are hurting as well by feeling the impacts of social isolation. Also, drug overdosing has spiked in the pandemic as a result of many colliding factors like addiction treatment interruptions, social services disruptions, and social isolation. Not only are these issues facing society, but there are other issues at play. There are fewer providers, decreased access to care, and additional stressors on top of those systemic issues. Then we have other issues like racism, bias, and stigmas. 

Pregnant and birthing people have also struggled. US women have among the highest rates of multiple health conditions and highest rates of mental health needs. They are more likely to report skipping care for many reasons, including the high cost of care. Many have less access to care. This is combined with a limited mental health workforce capacity, and we also spend less on social services. Behavioral health tech has a unique opportunity to help reach people and helps with the health of women and birthing people, as well as those who are most marginalized. 

The Commonwealth Fund helps policymakers understand how systems and policies contribute to inequities and also highlights potential solutions. Their work with maternal health focuses on providing evidence-based information, like maternal mortality and morbidity primer, and addressing policy solutions like postpartum Medicaid. There is also a health equity scorecard that looks at each state’s access outcomes and treatments and then compares each state on those measures and their ability to provide equitable care. 

Their work around behavioral health has been a focus for a long time. They are ensuring access to affordable health care as well as how they can increase access to behavioral health services by integrating mental health and substance use with primary care that is comprehensive and total primary healthcare. Their work is about how to support integration and care coordination, what are some innovative payment approaches, and showing the importance of growing and diversifying the healthcare workforce. There is a need for more providers and a need for more providers that represent the populations they are serving, leading to more diversity in the healthcare workforce. 

State Level

There are also state-level opportunities, like helping states as they are building capacity for primary health care and behavioral health while thinking about what their technology solutions are. They really want to focus on the potential of technology to address the gaps and meet the unfulfilled needs with technology, telemedicine, and other digital health solutions.

Barriers

Other focuses can inhibit the benefits of technological advances within health care. These barriers include access to broadband, as well as audio or video capabilities, and the impacts of that on the tech for healthcare. Regarding how tech can be utilized, there are questions about whether insurance will cover healthcare via technology. Also, it is important to remember that technology is not the end-all, be-all solution. There is an additional focus on delivery systems and payment models.

Innovation

There are so many different innovative ideas that are trying to address mental and behavioral health and how to reach the most challenging populations. The drive to develop and link together care with those who need it is incredibly impressive. Connecting patients with providers who can actually help them is a wonderful innovation. There are a number of companies that are creating behavioral health tech, and there are specific ones that focus on those marginalized communities. There is a lot of opportunity around telemedicine, and COVID-19 showed us that telemedicine is an effective way to provide healthcare. It has been shown to be at least as effective as a face-to-face intervention with depression and anxiety, as well as some other symptoms in postpartum health, even with addressing postpartum depression. It is amazing to see all of those opportunities develop so quickly. 

With all of these great innovative ideas and companies trying to reach those populations that are often left out, there is no wonder why behavioral health tech is the way of the future. 

HEALTH EQUITY
B2C
Feb 16, 2023
5 min. read

Hurdle Health’s Culturally Intentional Care Model

Their care model meets the needs of diverse populations with attention to proper mental health care that has been historically neglected.
China Campbell

Culture can be what defines us and helps shape our individual personalities, our family dynamics, and our ability to exist in our communities. Hurdle knows just how important culture is and makes sure to put it at the forefront of their care. They have dedicated therapists who are there to support you and have the ability to understand your needs through their culturally intentional care model. They are particularly aware that culturally intentional care is immensely important for often neglected communities like minoritized racial, ethnic, and cultural groups, as well as BIPOC and LGBTQIA+. Their care model meets the needs of diverse populations with attention to proper mental health care that has been historically neglected. 

Measurement-Based Care Model Efficacy

Hurdle utilizes a measure-based care model that allows for an evaluation of the patient’s symptoms before an encounter in order to inform of the behavioral health treatment. Although this form of care is heavily underutilized, measure-based care continues to demonstrate the ability to increase the outcome of the patient’s care. Their hope is to make a significant impact on those patients in culturally diverse communities who experience mental health concerns. 

Hurdle has been working on a white paper outlining the importance of virtually intentional healthcare and the significant impact it has on the people seeking their mental health services. The white paper states, “Hurdle’s training model shifts the paradigm from the traditional therapeutic approach. We incorporate a multicultural framework that relies upon building new culturally-intentional skills to ensure that therapists are trained to exhibit cultural humility and engage in authentic discussions with members regarding their racial, ethnic, as well as cultural concerns”. It also states that they incorporate a multicultural framework that focuses on building new skills that are culturally intentional to ensure that their therapists are trained in cultural humanity and engage with members in conversations surrounding their racial, ethnic, and cultural concerns. 

Hurdle claims that they have a higher retention rate of their patients and that their patients are more engaged and satisfied with their providers. Their data continues to show a positive change in their patients from their initial screening to their follow-up assessments. They have excellent rates of improvement with these patients who have mild anxiety or worse, as well as those with mild depression or worse. A significant number of these patients saw a significant clinical improvement in their symptoms. 

Hurdle also incorporates a patient reporting tool that is used to evaluate the level of cultural intentionality of their providers. Again, a significant percentage of their patients state that their providers gave them the opportunity to explore how their race, ethnicity, and culture impact their lives. Their patients also agree that the provider’s willingness to discuss those impacts aided in building better relationships based on openness between patient and provider. 

Why Culturally Responsive Measurement-Based Care Matters

This care model is proving to provide a better connection with patients and their individual therapies, as well as their ability to cope and show positive progress in the reduction of their symptoms. The evidence from their data supports the idea that Hurdle’s culturally intentional care model positively impacts their patients’ lives and is continuously proving to provide a safe and reliable outlet for those patients of the often neglected communities of the racial, cultural, or LGBTQIA+ diverse. With such strong data supporting their work, the expansion of this care model is inevitable. Hurdle is pushing back against the boundaries that have negatively impacted these diversified communities.

For more information on Hurdle’s work and their white paper release, click here.

HEALTH EQUITY
POLICY
Feb 9, 2023
7 min

The Mental Health Battle for Black Youth

It is crucial to acknowledge that black youth–in particular–are facing their own crisis of struggling with suicide.
China Campbell

As we all know, our country is facing a significant youth mental health crisis. However, it is crucial to acknowledge that black youth–in particular–are facing their own crisis of struggling with suicide. This demographic is often overlooked when discussing the mental health crisis in America. And with the increased stigma the black community faces, it can be especially challenging for many black youth to talk about. In honor of Black History Month, we are bringing mental health to the forefront of discussions concerning the black community. We can better understand the pitfalls in the healthcare system and acknowledge the structural challenges that make accessing care more difficult for black youth. 

The State of Black Youth Mental Health 

There has been an increase in black youth suicide, specifically in the age range of 5 to 12 years old. The rate of suicide has doubled in the last 13 years. This came tied to a decrease in suicide among white youth. Black youth have the highest rate of suicide attempts across all demographics, except for American Indians and Alaskan natives. The rate of attempts among black youth has only increased in the last ten years. There is widespread concern for the increase in these attempts and suicidal ideations within the black community. 

Unexpected life events seem to be at the base of these increases. While this demographic can be hit with many triggering events, the pandemic certainly propelled a surge in attempts and ideations. The pandemic has drastically caused an increase in unprecedented change, the adaption to an ever-evolving society, as well as grief and loss in the nation. This prompted an increase in mental health stressors for all, while this demographic fell behind with the least amount of access to help and support the youth in the communities. As the effects of the pandemic continue, even after the passage of the initial wave, this demographic needs to have more support and greater access to suicide prevention measures. 

In 2020, GDBHT2022 speaker Brandon Johnson served as Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration's representative on the Health and Human Services Report to Congress on African-American Youth Suicide. The report came from information included in the Appropriations bill in 2019. Congress then challenged the Department of Health and Human services to assess the situation and provide information regarding what was happening, what is already known about this issue, and what programs are in place right now to support African-American young people and those who are in their lives. This prompted a push for many agencies to start looking into the risk factors and the protective factors for the prevention of these issues. It also encouraged the mental health field to focus more on what it should be doing to address these issues. Using information from the national violent death reporting system data, under which suicide is reported from each state, the CDC can evaluate the situations leading up to the event. These situations could induce financial issues, relationship issues, previous signs of mental health issues, mental health diagnosis if the person was seeing a mental health professional, school-based issues, and any traumatic life events or crises in the two weeks leading up to the suicide, etc. This reporting system was combed for information regarding youth, and they found that traumatic events, family and relationship problems, significant arguments or conflicts, or any predetermined mental health concerns were all prominent factors in these deaths. From this information, it was determined that family needs to be involved in the mental health and wellness of young people–as youth do not have the ability to handle everything for themselves. They need the family unit to tackle everyday concerns. 

Another part of this demographic is understanding that there is not just one aspect to the black youth community. There is the LGBTQ portion, those in foster care, those experiencing homelessness, and many other risk factors on top of the black youth community, that are influencing the youth. There simply are not many intervention strategies to help handle these issues. 

How Can Organizations Help The Black Youth Mental Health Crisis?

There are many companies and organizations out there that want to help and be a part of the solution. So, how can organizations help? Community engagement. In order to understand the fundamental needs of communities of color, understanding the individual needs and lack of access to care available to the youth must be acknowledged. Unfortunately, the challenges to accessing care are abundant–no health insurance, socioeconomic status, increased stigma, provider bias, and more. Engaging with the black community and being open to helping the youth in these communities is an important step in preventing the loss of life in the community. 

As we address the pitfalls of the mental healthcare system for black youth, we can also celebrate the positive efforts in improving mental healthcare for black communities during Black History Month. 

This article gathered insights from Brandon Johnson's presentation at our 2022 conference. You can watch his entire session here by searching "Brandon Johnson." 

HEALTH EQUITY
B2B
Jan 31, 2023
5 min. read

Closing Gaps in Mental Health Care with Personalized Digital Solutions

Mental health can be a complex subject to crack. With so many issues surrounding it, it can be hard to navigate and know what is up or down.
China Campbell

Mental health can be a complex subject to crack. With so many issues surrounding it, it can be hard to navigate and know what is up or down. Issues like stigma, lack of providers, and access to care can all inhibit our ability to prosper in a healthy nature. Below are three companies working to close the gaps and break the barriers to accessing mental health care through digital solutions.

 

Ellipsis Health

Ellipsis Health started off as a desire to connect the dots between physical and mental health. They saw the opportunity to do so by using voice. Voice is how we connect with each other, and healthcare is all about connecting the dots and building relationships. They created the world’s first clinically validated vital sign for mental health using voice to measure stress, depression, and anxiety levels. 

There must be a way to be inclusive and ethical about how to build the technology and who will build the technology. And the people willing to build the technology must actually represent the people they are building it for. Ellipsis has built its digital solution using people from various backgrounds and understanding, gathering data, and utilizing a good representation of the market. 

One crucial factor in the success of this technology is early intervention. Starting even with kids – realizing there is a problem, getting treatment, and the road to recovery – all start with early intervention. According to data, 50% of all lifetime mental illnesses begin at age 14. About 75% begin by age 24. By engaging in a fun and informative way with early intervention, there is a much better success rate. 

Optum Labs

Optum Labs is expanding access to mental health care by bringing care into a person’s home. Care in the home can also cut down on the stigma of mental health care. By allowing the care to be private, in the comfort of their own home, more people are willing to seek out this form of health care. 

The biggest challenge in mental health is that there is no universal diagnostic tool that can be as simple as a blood test to diagnose conditions. Digital health companies are starting to use digital tools and biomarkers as a method to help diagnose illnesses. By bringing in technology, Optum Labs is increasing access to biomarking tools, thus increasing access to care overall. This is becoming part of holistic care and bridging the physical and mental health care gap. Another way this is increasing access is by connecting the patient to their care team in a more seamless and universal way. Optum Labs is using technology to meet people where they are. 

Headspace

Headspace is looking to ensure that patients have diverse options to provide a range of treatments that is right for each individual. Since choosing can be a burden, the goal is to have personalization and assessment engines that ensure that they are serving the right piece of content, providing the right connection to a coach, and the right escalation to clinical care, at the right time. 

Headspace uses technology to open the front door to care. Some people know they need care but are blocked by stigma from seeking out the care they need. They are intersecting people with informativeness as well as readiness. 

COVID-19 gave people the unique circumstance of being locked in their homes, watching tv. Headspace partnered with Netflix to bring to life a series of specials that focused on mental well-being, meditation, and good sleep. When you work with technology, there’s a way to introduce and interrupt to get the point across. Headspace also partnered with TikTok to create a segment with a teacher, Dora, about mindfulness and help you take a break and breathe. There was success with this segment that caused people to exit the app and shut down TikTok after the break. The more you can embrace the playing field–in this case, technology–and meet people on their level, the better the outcome and success rate will be. This has been a great way to reach the younger generations. 

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

ADOLESCENTS
HEALTH EQUITY
Dec 20, 2022
7 min. read

Advancing Youth Mental Health Solutions By Co-Creating With The Youth Themselves

The Hopelab team answered a few questions on the trends in youth mental health, its role in advancing these types of technologies, and how co-creation is helping to meet the needs of youth.
The Hopelab Team

We have seen the status of youth mental health rapidly declining over the past few years, and luckily, a lot of people are talking about it – including the U.S. Surgeon General. A handful of companies in the behavioral health technology industry are focused on youth; however, there is one company in particular that is spearheading the mission to advance access to youth mental health solutions, especially for LGBTQ+ and BIPOC youth. Hopelab is a social innovation lab and impact investor at the intersection of tech and youth mental health. The Hopelab team answered a few questions from us on the trends in youth mental health, its role in advancing these types of technologies, and how co-creation is helping to meet the needs of youth.

Youth mental health is a hot topic right now – especially among LGBTQ+ and BIPOC youth. What signals and trends are exciting you most as you see new solutions for this population?

There are a number of areas where we see great potential for impact in youth mental health, and particularly mental health for LGBTQ+ and BIPOC youth. We highlight four below.

  • The first is Medicaid. 39% of young people 0-18 years old are covered by Medicaid, which provides health insurance to low income Americans. Hopelab portfolio companies such as Brave Health, MindRight Health, and Hazel Health are prioritizing Medicaid as a pathway to provide access to much needed services for young people who might not otherwise be able to find or afford them.
  • The next is family-based care. To improve youth mental health, it is important to understand the context in which they live, and to empower their loved ones and caregivers with the tools to meet the needs of the young people in their lives. Hopelab portfolio companies such as Equip, InStride, and Manatee incorporate families into their care models, ensuring that teens are sustainably supported even when their therapy sessions end.
  • We’ve also been excited to see the growing emphasis on cultural competency. For LGBTQ+ and BIPOC young people in particular, it can be challenging to find solutions that value and understand their cultures, communities, challenges, and beliefs. Hopelab portfolio companies Violet and Hurdle have made it their mission to ensure that providers are well-equipped to meet the needs of their diverse patients.
  • We’re also seeing a number of non-clinical solutions that meet young people further upstream, rather than through the healthcare system. One example is our portfolio company Idoru, which allows users to create hyper-realistic digital avatars that they can use to create content online. While Idoru is not a clinical intervention, it is designed to improve mental health, allowing young people to experiment with identity and self-expression in ways that may not be safe or feasible in their physical surroundings.

What is Hopelab's role in the youth mental health industry in advancing these technologies?

Our guiding star is a future where all young people, in particular LGBTQ+ and BIPOC youth, are thriving, free from barriers to their mental health and well-being. Building on our 20 year commitment to co-creating with young people, we’re creating impact through:

  1. Targeted social impact investments via Hopelab Ventures, where we invest in and partner with entrepreneurs, thought leaders, and innovators who are committed to advancing mental health and well-being outcomes for young people.
  2. Hands-on product support for digital innovation via Hopelab Studio, where we leverage our expertise in research, design, strategy, youth co-creation, and health equity to advise partners in making their offerings more youth-centered, beautiful, and effective.
  3. Translational science partnerships via Hopelab Discovery, where we catalyze collaborations across academics, innovators, funders, and policy makers to support science-driven tech innovation.

Leveraging all three of these pillars, our service offerings allow us to collaborate with startups, investors, nonprofits, universities, big tech companies, policymakers, and more to catalyze innovation that achieves impact at scale and results in more and better solutions for youth mental health.

What is Hopelab's approach to ensuring these technologies meet the needs of LGBTQ+ and BIPOC youth?

We ensure these technologies meet the needs of LGBTQ+ and BIPOC youth by co-creating with the youth themselves. We believe we can accomplish Hopelab’s mission of advancing solutions that support, affirm, and empower young people by centering young people within our work. Through our Youthlab project, we provide paid opportunities that give teens and young adults a place to share their thoughts, designs, creativity, and experiences to support the co-creation of products that help young people thrive. Youthlab is part of Hopelab Studio’s service offerings and is available to our partners (including Hopelab Ventures portfolio companies) interested in connecting with youth networks, or young people directly, to shape product design and development, inform research collaborations, seek input on marketing initiatives, or engage in other learning opportunities. Youthlab reduces barriers for organizations to invite teens and young adults into the product development, feedback, and learning process by serving as a connector and curator between product designers, youth networks, and young people. 

You can learn more about Hopelab at hopelab.org and see our latest projects by following @hopelab across social media.

B2C
HEALTH EQUITY
Nov 29, 2022
3 min. read

Supporting Caregivers’ Mental Health: Resources for those who dedicate their lives to caring for others

Here are some different companies doing what they can and providing resources to support caregivers while they support the care of others.
China Campbell

Caregivers provide a solid and important aspect of healthcare. They provide the nurture behind the medicine, but above all else. Caregivers often deal with very sick patients. As a result, this patient care group can face some significant mental health struggles.

Here are some different companies doing what they can and providing resources to support caregivers while they support the care of others.

Hands holding a wooden heart and house.

Honor

Honor provides family care guides to help caregivers treat and assist those with chronic conditions. While the guides are aimed at the patients, they also allow caregivers to understand better the struggles the patients are undergoing while being able to help them manage their care.  

ARCHANGELS

ARCHANGELS is a national movement in a platform that reframes how caregivers are seen as honored and supported, using a combination of data and stories through public and private partnerships. They believe caregivers should feel honored and seen in the line of care. Their caregiver intensity index is designed to engage all caregivers, even those who do not see themselves in the role. Their platform provides each caregiver with a score that not only validates their experience but also allows them to reach resources that exist – but are often underutilized due to a lack of awareness. 

CaringBridge

The CaringBridge offers caregiver advice. This advice comes from those who have been caregivers, and it can be beneficial for caregivers to understand their role and better care for their patients. They offer tips on how to effectively care for others, how to deal with grief and loss, helpful information for long-distance caregivers, and many other beneficial pieces of advice. This advice is aimed at helping the caregiver be the best they can be. This sometimes means taking time to focus on themselves as the caregiver and their own mental health needs. There are many stressors in the role of a caregiver, and CaringBridge has many different options and advice to help. 

Mental Health America

Mental Health America offers free, anonymous, and confidential screenings for caregivers struggling with their mental health. They offer other mental health resources such as caregiving basics, coping with stress, crisis planning, parenting, and tools and resources. Caregivers need to take care of their own mental health. Supporting caregivers with information and resources can help them maintain their mental health and better serve loved ones.

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 of World Mental Health Day

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 for Mental Health

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's role in the mental health industry

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 Mental 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