Charlie Health, Mantra Health to expand behavioral health care for higher ed students

Mantra Health, a digital mental health provider for higher education, is joining forces with adolescent-focused Charlie Health to broaden access for students seeking higher levels of care.

The partners will connect college and university students who require a higher level of mental health care to Charlie Health’s virtual intensive outpatient program (IOP).

Mantra Health coordinates with higher education institutions to provide undergraduate and graduate students with virtual therapy, psychiatry, crisis care, on-demand emotional support, peer-to-peer support and wellness content. 

“Lack of access to IOP is a major cause of drop-out for students across the country who need a higher level of care,” Matt Kennedy, co-founder and CEO of Mantra Health, said in a press release. The partnership expands the care continuum and closes the care loop for university partners through Mantra Health’s collaboration software, he added, which will improve retention of students referred to IOP.

Charlie Health is a provider of virtual high-acuity mental health care for teens and young adults. Its virtual IOP lasts from nine to 12 weeks and consists of multiple weekly sessions of facilitated peer groups, individual therapy and family therapy. The program is designed to be flexible, allowing high-acuity patients to attend treatment remotely while maintaining their regular schedules.

Every Charlie Health patient is paired with a personalized therapist trained to address their specific needs via a matching process based on strict licensure qualifications. Patients are also placed in curated groups with peers coming from similar backgrounds.

Research demonstrates the effectiveness of Charlie Health's virtual IOP for youth. Published data from a study in partnership with the University of Pennsylvania found that Charlie Heath’s IOP led to a 71% reduction in suicidal ideation and a 60% decrease in symptoms associated with depression among study participants. The study also found a 58% decrease in self-harm among patients.

"Charlie Health's collaboration with Mantra comes at a time when the mental health of young people is of the utmost concern," Carter Barnhart, co-founder and CEO of Charlie Health, said in the announcement. "We're hopeful that our data-backed virtual solution will empower students who are facing mental health challenges during this pivotal time to seek out the level of care they need to be successful at school and beyond.”

A student eligible for IOP can be referred to Charlie Health via Mantra Health’s collaboration portal by the institution’s or Mantra Health’s clinicians and care navigators. The treatment progress will also be tracked and reported for outcomes transparency. 

The U.S. faces a growing youth mental health crisis. In 2019, 13% of adolescents reported having a major depressive episode, up 60% from 2007, according to federal data. Suicide rates among youth aged 10 to 19 jumped 40% from 2001 to 2019, while emergency room visits for self-harm rose by 88%, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show.

Charlie Health, which launched in 2020 to help fill gaps in care, currently operates in 25 states and is actively expanding. It works with major payers including UnitedHealthcare, Humana, Cigna, Blue Cross Blue Shield and Optum, among others. The company argues that IOP is underutilized in the behavioral health space—but, since younger people are on electronic devices constantly, there is an opportunity to leverage telehealth to engage them in mental health services, the company says.

Mantra Health’s solutions have been deployed across more than 100 campuses, including Penn State University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Miami Dade College and Cornell University. In total, the company said its offerings serve more than 800,000 students.