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The Salt Lake City-based company provides employees with mental health telemedicine services
While the conversation around mental health has certainly shifted in the last few years, with more people opening up about their problems and recognizing that they need care, the act of actually going and finding a therapist is still not as easy as it should be, with numerous barriers still in the way.
For one, people can spend weeks, or even months, calling therapists that are listed by their insurance company "only to discover they specialize in an area that doesn’t apply, no longer accept their insurance, or aren’t accepting new patients," Dallen Allred, CEO of Tava Health, told me.
Once they do actually find a therapist, it then takes them another three weeks just to actually speak to someone.
"Add to that the fact that most patients with high-deductible plans will also have to cover the cost of each visit and it’s no wonder people stop seeking help, especially if they need it immediately," he said.
Founded in 2019, the Salt Lake City-based Tava Health is on a mission to change that, which it does by partnering with employers to provide their employees, along with their families, with access to same-day mental telehealth resources. The company, which Allred says, "really aims to make regular mental healthcare more routine and commonplace," announced on Monday that it raised a $3 million seed round, led by Peterson Ventures.
Once an employer is onboarded, all an employee has to do is sign up and take a questionnaire on the Tava Health app. They will then be instantly matched with a vetted, licensed professional who they can begin speaking with immediately. Tava Health's therapists specialize in all aspects of mental health.
While Allred didn't disclose how many companies have signed up so far, he would say that it has clients of all sizes and in all industries; one of those is Chatbooks, which began offering Tava Health’s services to its employees in January 2020. Almost half of the company had signed up by March, and a quarter of them had already spoken with a professional.
"We’re still fairly new to the market at less than a year old but we’ve already seen incredible results and responses from employers who want to or have already begun to offer our service to their employees. Our user base has increased three fold in just a few short months and we’re excited to provide regular, ongoing emotional health support to even more people moving forward," he said.
Like many other companies in the telehealth space, Tava Health has seen a spike since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis; coupling with the fact that the company offers mental health services has only helped increase the demand for its services during the crisis. As a result, Tava Health has doubled its number of patients served each week for nearly two months.
Though Allred admits "COVID-19 has certainly exacerbated our nation’s mental health crisis," he also makes sure to point out its only making an already existing problem worse, not creating a new one.
"People are experiencing higher rates of depression and anxiety than they were ten years ago and the pandemic is driving those rates even higher as we experience more stress and anxiety from self-isolation. However, as the pandemic necessitates us to find and consider other solutions, I hope that legislators, employees, and providers will see the value that telehealth and other technologies add to our overall well being and will be more open to adopting these resources long-term," he said.
Going forward, Tava Health plans to use the new funding to expand its offering into additional geographic markets, which means expanding to other states outside of Utah. It will also go toward building out the company's technology.
"We’re really interested in exploring other ways to engage patients besides through live video. The more we can do to make meetings convenient for patients and help them feel comfortable, the more likely they’ll be to continue seeking regular care," said Allred.
For Tava, success is measured in the number of people it is able to help, he told me, so its ultimate goal is to make it as easy as possible for people to get excellent professional care as often as they want or need. That means going beyond just helping to reduce stigma and actually increasing access to mental health services.
"Think of it this way: very few of us celebrate every dentist visit, but we go because we understand the risks of not checking in. Some need more intensive work than others, but we don’t stigmatize this type of care. The same is true for mental health. Studies show that stigma is actually not the biggest barrier to seeking care: it’s cost and accessibility," said Allred.
"By working with employers to cover the cost and making it easier and faster for people to find and speak with a professional, we encourage more people to take an active role in their mental health, and ultimately, we hope, drive that stigma down."
(Image source: tavahealth.com)
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