Startup Brave Health picks up $10M to expand access to behavioral health care for Medicaid patients

Close up of young woman getting online medical help and advice during videocall with doctor checking symptoms
Brave Health offers a virtual alternative to traditional outpatient services, such as therapy, psychiatry, case management and medication-assisted treatment, for mental health and addiction that have traditionally been hard to access in local communities. (master1305/GettyImages)

Brave Health, a virtual-first behavioral health provider focused on serving Medicaid populations, is rapidly scaling since launching two years ago.

The startup nabbed $10 million in series B funding to fuel its growth and expand to 10 states.

Since launching with health plans in Florida in 2019, Brave Health now serves 65 million covered lives across 113 health plans and operates in North Carolina, Kentucky, Georgia, Illinois, Texas, New York, Ohio, Michigan and Alabama, along with Florida.

The funding was led by City Light Capital, Union Square Ventures and Able Partners, bringing its total funding to $20.75 million.

Today, access to basic behavioral health services for the nation’s most vulnerable populations is a public health crisis, said Anna Lindow, CEO, and co-founder of Brave Health. The percentage of psychiatrists accepting Medicaid has been cut in half in the past decade. With nearly 1 in 4 Americans now using Medicaid, this gap leaves many without access to the critical care they need. 

And the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated the growing need for behavioral health services across the country. The gap between people who need services and those who are receiving services has continued to widen, especially for those with Medicaid,” Lindow said.

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Brave Health aims to "change the narrative about Medicaid-based innovation" and deliver sustainable solutions designed to improve behavioral health outcomes for millions of people, she said.

"The barrier of getting people connected to care is not trivial; it's not as simple as, 'If you build it they will come.' There is complexity and nuance with how we engage people in care," Lindow told Fierce Healthcare.

She added, "There are real and understandable hard and soft barriers that need to be taken into account and the solutions we use at Brave Health, it’s not just about delivering care, but also delivering engagement and wrap-around services. We go where patients have trust and build relationships with those entities, so we work with case managers at health plans, discharge planners at hospitals, who are helping to get people to the next stop, and then, of course, primary care and we integrate with physicians and other providers that have trust with the patient."

Brave Health offers a virtual alternative to traditional outpatient services, such as therapy, psychiatry, case management and medication-assisted treatment, for mental health and addiction that have traditionally been hard to access in local communities. The company offers same-day assessments, reduces wait times to less than a week, and works closely with Medicaid case managers, providers and major Medicaid plans across the U.S. to increase patient engagement and lower overall costs of care, according to the company.

Brave Health has a team of 120 providers and is growing its staff. "With the population that we are treating, this higher acuity population, we want consistency as much as possible, so it's important to have a cohesive team of practitioners, prescribing providers and therapists who are committed to work at Brave Health."

Lindow said the company plans to use the fresh funding to "grow, grow, grow." She added, "Unfortunately, every single state in this country has a need for expanded behavioral health resources. There hasn’t been a ton of investment in Medicaid, it's mostly focused on organizations that serve self-pay organizations and employers."

The digital mental health market is a fast-growing market and also is becoming competitive with well-funded companies like Lyra Health, Ginger (now Headspace Health), Modern Health and Spring Health. Lindow said Brave Health's focus on Medicaid populations differentiates the company in the market.

"The time is now. We are long overdue for more investing in Medicaid. We are seeing more interest on the part of investors and payers and that has changed throughout the course of the year. There is increased awareness of opportunities to build a sustainable business in the market," Lindow said.

Lindow became interested in growing companies and entrepreneurship while working at General Assembly, a New York-based start-up that offers in-person and online classes and workshops to help people advance or change their careers. GA was acquired in 2018 for $412 million.

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Lindow partnered with former CEO and co-founder of GA, Jake Schwartz, to launch Brave Health.

The entrepreneur said she saw parallels between her work at GA and using technology, operations and data to help get people more access to high-quality education and doing work in the community mental health world.

"There is such a need for broader and deeper access to behavioral health using technology and data and more outcomes-driven care," Lindow said.

The company started with what Lindow calls an in-person "mini-clinic" for medication-assisted treatment in Miami. She and her staff consistently heard that patients also needed help with other mental health issues and also struggled to get to in-person appointments due to issues with transportation, child care and access.
 
In the first 10 months of 2021 alone, health plan case managers, primary care physicians and hospitals have made over 11,000 referrals to Brave Health, according to the company. Of the referrals sent, approximately two-thirds of patients opted into care. By partnering with Brave Health, Medicaid plans are improving overall member health outcomes and reducing costs, the company claims. For example, one large national managed behavioral health organization reported that patients who had at least one encounter with Brave Health had 90% fewer readmissions and 66% lower costs in approximately a one-year period, Lindow reported.

As part of the financing, City Light Capital’s Josh Cohen joined Brave Health’s board of directors as a strategic advisor to help guide Brave Health’s next phase of national expansion. 

"There is a lot that venture capital-backed companies can do and there are so many exciting companies being started right now. I hope it only spurs more innovation in the space," Lindow said.