Cartwheel eliminates wait time for mental health support at schools

Anna Vod · September 29, 2023 · Short URL:

The startup just closed its $20M Series A to expand telehealth service to new school districts

U.S. schools these days are battling youth crises on multiple fronts: social media addiction, obsession with gender identity largely fueled by the schools themselves and the decline in learning largely for public schools that were shut down due to the pandemic. All these have intensified mental health issues. The crisis is swelling at a massive rate: in 2021, 42% of students felt persistently sad or hopeless and 22% considered attempting suicide.

Unfortunately, school psychologists and counselors remain scarce and face burnout, with only 8% of districts meeting the recommended ratio of one psychologist to 500 students. Yet there are ventures aimed at lessening the mental health crisis and shortening that teen-to-help distance. Cartwheel is among them.

This week, Cambridge-based Cartwheel announced it raised $20 million in Series A funding to expand its network to hundreds of thousands of new students. To date, that brings the startup's total funding to $24 million.

The new round was led by high-growth sector investor Menlo Ventures in California, with participating Reach Capital, a San Francisco-based VC backing education startups, plus repeat investors General CatalystBoxGroup, and health and wellness investment fund Able Partners

Operating since 2022, Cartwheel partners with schools and provides mental telehealth support for the school community without wait time. Once a school counselor refers a student for clinical mental health service, Cartwheel connects him or her with a licensed therapist or child psychiatrist within seven days, no waitlist involved. These services are accessible year-round to all students under family insurance.

Cartwheel employs a three-tier support approach: universal, targeted, and intensive. The first involves skill-building workshops, professional development, and prevention for school staff and families; the second is clinical consultations and guidance for school staff; the third is direct care to students via telehealth, which includes therapy and medication.

The screening tools and treatments Cartwheel uses are evidence-based and are fit to treat a wide range of conditions. These include anxiety, depression, anger, grief, low self-esteem, self-harm, identity, trauma, sleep and social issues, and more.

"By combining funding from school districts and health insurers, we've helped superintendents ensure the long-term financial sustainability of these services," Daniel Tartakovsky, the co-founder and COO of Cartwheel and previously a mental health policy advisor to the U.S. Surgeon General, said in a statement Tuesday.

Currently serving more than 50 schools in Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Illinois, and Rhode Island, Cartwheel said the new capital will help it reach new students in current service areas, as well as districts in new states.

Tartakovsky added: "We believe our model will become a blueprint for districts across the country on how to build a long-term school-community partnership, especially as school budgets tighten with the expiration of federal COVID relief dollars."

Menlo Ventures’ Greg Yap said in a release: "It is incredibly tough to be a kid today, and mental health is a critical issue for our youth and our future. We led this investment in Cartwheel because by working directly with schools, Cartwheel enables earlier intervention, improves student and family engagement throughout care, and supports better coordination among the trusted adults in a student's life.”

Image: Cartwheel

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