Starbucks teams with startup to extend mental health perks to U.S. employees

Starbucks is teaming up with startup Lyra Health to expand mental health benefits for its thousands of employees.

Beginning April 6, U.S. employees and eligible family members will get free therapy—up to 20 sessions a year—with a mental health therapist or coach through Lyra Health's platform.

Starbucks employees will also get unlimited access to self-care apps through Burlingame, California-based Lyra Health at no cost.

Founded by former Facebook Chief Financial Officer David Ebersman, Lyra Health provides mental health benefits and connects employees to therapists and other providers through its platform.

Starbucks executives said the partnership with Lyra will help provide mental health care services that are accessible, robust and tailored to employees' specific needs.

The company decided to expand its mental health benefits after surveying and receiving feedback from its nearly 200,000 U.S. employees.

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It's the latest update in the coffee giant's comprehensive mental health initiative announced last September. Last year, the company announced it was investing in several initiatives focused on mental health and wellness.

“Caring for Starbucks partners is at the core of our company. We are constantly listening to our partners and exploring new ways to enhance the innovative benefits we offer to support them and their families,” said Kevin Johnson, Starbucks' president and CEO.

“Mental health is a fundamental part of our humanity and these resources will make a meaningful difference in people’s lives and help break the stigma around this complex issue," Johnson said.

The partnership follows Starbucks' introduction of several new and improved benefits this year including the meditation app Headspace to U.S. and Canada partners as well as mental health training sessions for U.S. and Canada store managers that will be available this summer.

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The company offers its services as a benefit to employers including eBay, Uber, NetApp and Genentech. The number of employees and family members with access to Lyra’s services has grown from 50,000 to 1 million over the past two years, the company said.

Lyra recently landed $75 million in a series C financing round. International Venture Partners led the funding round and was joined by new investor Meritech Capital Partners as well as existing investors Casdin Capital, Crown Venture Fund, Glynn Capital, Greylock Partners, Providence Ventures, Tenaya Capital and Venrock.

The company plans to use the new funds to build out its technology and expand its network of mental health providers.

In the U.S., close to 48 million people, or 1 in 5 adults, experienced mental illness in 2018, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Lyra’s solution addresses the barriers to accessing high-quality mental health care, Ebersman said.

"Mental health is one of the most important problems of our time. The prevalence of mental health conditions is high. Access to high-quality treatments can change people’s lives and improve their ability to manage their conditions and thrive," he said.

"But currently, there isn't a good way to get people to those treatments. Many people don’t get effective care. It often takes a lot of effort to find a provider in-network that has openings to see you and find a good match for what you need."

He added, "It is imperative that we invest in new solutions to tackle stigma, improve access and quality, and remove barriers to care."

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Lyra's platform will enable Starbucks employees to connect with mental health services, identify available health providers that meet their individual needs and book appointments with options to meet with their therapist or coach by video or in-person. 

While traditional therapy entails one-hour weekly sessions with a therapist, Lyra supports members throughout their "care journey," Ebersman said.

"We provide digital tools and support to members to continue to work on those skills they learned in their sessions to continue building those skills outside of the session," he said.