Lyra Health expands services to tackle alcohol use disorder, complex mental health issues

smartphone screens with screen shots of Lyra Health's virtual mental health tools
Lyra’s new offerings add to its existing care options and specialist network, making it even easier for employers to offer effective, evidence-based care to employees and their families, according to company executives. (Lyra Health)

Lyra Health, a provider of mental health benefits for employees, has rolled out new offerings to tackle more serious mental health issues such as alcohol use disorder (AUD) and suicidality.

Problematic alcohol use and suicidality affect millions of Americans, and this number only grew during the pandemic, according to Smita Das, M.D., Ph.D., Lyra Health medical director.

"Approximately 30% of our members currently struggle with problematic drinking, and 16% of our members have suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Gaining access to relevant treatment through employee assistance programs (EAPs) and health plans can be complex, and existing care options don’t always address co-morbidities that often present alongside alcohol use disorder, such as anxiety and depression," Das told Fierce Healthcare.

As of 2019, the National Institute for Mental Health estimated there were more than 13 million Americans with serious mental illness and 15 million with AUD.

During the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found nearly 11% of adults seriously considered suicide.

RELATED: Mental health startup Lyra Health now worth $4.6B with latest megaround

Treatment for problematic alcohol use, suicidality, and complex illnesses that require specialized care can be difficult to access. For example, only 10% of people with problematic alcohol use get meaningful support, according to Das.

Lyra’s new offerings add to its existing care options and specialist network, making it even easier for employers to offer effective, evidence-based care to employees and their families, according to company executives.

These offerings will be available at the beginning of 2022.

Stigma is also a factor when it comes to getting help and support for AUD, Das said.

"Lyra is a trusted mental health partner that is easy to access, flexible and virtual, which can help overcome stigma. This growing need, combined with poor access to quality support, drove Lyra to deliver innovative new care methods to support those that need it most," she said.

She added, "Employers that deliver access to proven treatments for alcohol-related issues, suicidality, and personalized support as part of their comprehensive mental health care benefits allow employees to better manage their care, wherever they are on the mental health spectrum."

Helping members get to effective care and proactive treatment faster could help employers avoid absenteeism and lost productivity. Alcohol misuse accounts for 500 million lost workdays each year, costing the U.S. economy $240 billion annually in care spend, accidents, absenteeism and lost productivity.

"As a result, employees facing more challenging and complex issues will benefit earlier in the progression of their symptoms and more durably. The support they will get for themselves and their families will give them the opportunity to more meaningfully engage in life and work once they recover," Das said.

RELATED: The digital mental health market is booming. Here’s why some experts are concerned

Expanding mental health offerings

The Burlingame, California-based company offers an array of in-person and remote behavioral therapy that helps remove barriers to accessing high-quality mental health care. The company currently serves more than 2.2 million members globally.

Lyra works with leading multinational companies, including eBay; Genentech, a member of the Roche Group; Uber; and VCA Animal Hospitals. The startup's network includes more than 5,000 coaches, therapists and doctors in the U.S., with an additional 85,000 providers available worldwide through global partnerships.

The company banked $200 million in new funding in June to raise its valuation to a reported $4.6 billion. Lyra has raised $680 million to date.

Its treatment program for AUD, Lyra Reset, aims to help people reduce drinking or attain sobriety. The program addresses problematic alcohol use through virtual therapy, group sessions, ongoing symptom assessments, peer recovery support specialists to help members stay on track, digital lessons that teach coping skills, and medication to fight cravings, according to company executives.

As about half of AUD patients also suffer from other psychiatric disorders, Lyra's program also includes coordinated treatment for multiple issues.

RELATED: Employers name mental health access as key priority: survey

Lyra’s also launched a blended care dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) for suicidality as a specialized program that helps members decrease suicidal thoughts and behaviors. DBT is considered the gold standard for treatment for individuals with moderate to high suicidality, according to the company.

The program combines one-on-one virtual therapy sessions with therapist-prescribed skill-building lessons to help individuals recover quickly and effectively.

In 2021, 16% of members that came to Lyra for care indicated thoughts of suicide or active self-harm, up from 10% pre-pandemic.

“Individuals facing serious mental illnesses and substance use disorders have less access to care and resources than those with mild mental health issues,” said Connie Chen, M.D., chief operating officer at Lyra Health, in a statement. “Our newest AUD and other complex care offerings build on our existing specialty solutions to close a critical gap in mental health care, supporting a population that has historically been underserved due to the complexity and cost of care required to drive meaningful improvement."