Teen mental health platform BeMe Health takes $1.5M from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas

Steven Loeb · November 14, 2023 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/5773

BeMe and BCBSKS also entered into a strategic partnership to add 20k teens to the platform

COVID hit teens especially hard: recent data from the Centers for Disease Control indicated that 40% of high school students report persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness and stated a 10-year increase in the number of teens who have contemplated, planned, or attempted suicide.

However, COVID is just one part of an onslaught of traumatic events in the US, and in the world in recent years, that further exacerbate the incredibly distressing times teens reside in, said Nicki Tessler, PsyD, MBA, CEO and Co-founder at BeMe Health, an interventional behavioral health platform built by and for teens, which announced a $1.5 million funding investment from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas (BCBSKS), bringing its total funding to $18.5 million. Previous investors include Carrie Walton Penner through Fiore Ventures, Flare Capital, Polaris Partners, and California Health Care Foundation.

"I would also say that COVID more than contributing, revealed the teen mental health crisis and the real mental health status of this population. This crisis not only affects individual well-being, but also has significant financial implications for teens, their families, and the healthcare system overall," she said.

Teens need help, but they face numerous barriers when it comes to getting care, including reach; half of all mental health diagnoses show signs before age 14 and 75% of mental health disorders begin before 24, yet only 50% of those with a diagnosis receive treatment. They also struggle with engagement, and capacity, with the national average being 14 child/adolescent psychiatrists per 100,000 kids. And, of course, there's the cost.  

The BeMe platform helps its patients overcome these barriers by providing anytime, anywhere access to engaging content, mood reflection, and skill-building activities, as well as 1:1 coaching and connections to clinical services and 24/7 crisis support when needed.

"Similar to other post traumas, teens are adapting to the new normal. What inspires me about this population though is that they really exude a sense of agency. As much as they struggle, there is an equal and opposite force at play," said Tessler.

"They’ve got superpowers and I couldn’t believe more in them. As such, it is incumbent on all of us as parents and stakeholders to support what they don’t just expect but demand. They want more than just to endure, they want to flourish."

When joining BeMe, Teens can create an account with their phone number, email, or via Google or Apple login. The company collects user age for regulatory compliance and their basic information, including full name, location and school. Once they complete registration, they are asked how they are feeling/mood.

BeMe delivers a personalized experience to each user every time they come to the app. The first thing it asks them to do is to update their mood, and say why they feel that way. With this information, the company uses its proprietary algorithms to deliver a personalized home feed experience with recommendations for content, care, activities, and even coaching if that matches the users need in the moment, as well as based on information they've provided in the past. 

From the home feed, the user can go to the explorer tab to engage with a wide variety of teen-centric, curated content, and go to the coaching tab to have a direct conversation with a coach on any topic they desire. Additionally, they can explore the history of their moods and content engagement, as well as reach out to crisis and therapy resources if needed.

BeMe is currently available as a covered benefit through select health plans, employers, and community organizations. Additionally, it's currently working with several payor partners in the Medicaid and commercial side. Since 2022, the company has grown 21x in size and 14x in usage, while returning teens have grown 3x, and partnerships have grown 300% year-over-year.

Currently more than 170,000 teens use the app, and this new strategic partnership strategic partnership with BCBSKS will extend mental health support to an estimated 20,000 teenagers across Kansas.

"We are super fortunate and humbled by BCBSKS' investment in and partnership with us. I think we share a similar understanding of the problem, aligning on four motivational constructs: clinical rates of anxiety, depression, suicidality and other mental health issues among teens are increasing; traditional care is unable to address the scale of the problem, with a dearth of adolescent providers; the current paradigm from which mental healthcare operates or is delivered does not resonate with digital natives and teens expect and even demand care to fit what they like and what they need; and health plans are feeling the burden of the teen mental health crisis and are seeking solutions to drive clinical outcomes and reduce costs," Tessler said.

"I couldn’t be more excited or feel more lucky that we get to have them by our side as we set a new direction for teen mental health care delivery together."

BeMe recently published an evaluation in collaboration with Stanford University, with over 13,000 teens across the U.S., to demonstrate its effectiveness. The results showed that 90% of teens found BeMe content helpful, 84% of teens say that BeMe boosts self-esteem, and 84% of teens found BeMe coaching helpful. In addition, 83% of teens rated BeMe’s digital content as improving hope, and 92% as improving confidence to use coping skills.

The company has an undying belief in empowering this generation to thrive, Tessler said.

"I have 166 teen advisory board members from all regions and diverse backgrounds who are building this company by my side. And what they say repeatedly is that they are creating the next frontier of mental health support. If there is a small silver lining, it is that their mindset punches stigma in its gut. This isn’t teens talking about their mental health problems. This is teens inventing and crafting the net-new solutions for their generation."

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