Jul 14, 2022 - Business

Philly startup aims to solve mental health crises through primary care

Illustration of an app-like brain with an alarm icon on it

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A Philadelphia-based tech startup is trying to prevent mental health crises by helping physicians monitor and identify issues earlier on in primary care settings.

Why it matters: Access to mental health care, which is often siloed, has been an issue for decades, and lingering stigmas and cost remain among the largest barriers.

State of play: NeuroFlow says primary care doctors can use its platform and app to track patients' mental health status and refer them to personalized treatment.

  • App users can log their moods, sleep and pain — data that's fed back to providers. They can also find therapists, learn relaxation techniques, and do self-care activities, like journaling.
  • The company, which launched in 2016, says its reach has grown to 14 million people across health systems, payers and its partnership with the Department of Defense.

The latest: NeuroFlow most recently partnered with Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health to offer the service to its employees and students.

What they're saying: "The need has never been greater," Matt Miclette, vice president of clinical operations at NeuroFlow, told Axios.

Context: Crisis centers across the country are expecting a surge in call volume after the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline transitions to a three-digit number, 988, this weekend. Federal officials have expressed concerns that most states aren't prepared to meet crisis centers' long-term needs.

  • If an individual is calling the hotline, then "everything else has fallen through the gaps," Miclette said. " ... There's so much that can happen prior to that to stop that point from ever happening."

Between the lines: Miclette pointed to one study, which found that on average, 45% of individuals who took their own life had contact with primary care providers within one month of suicide.

  • "These people are coming into the health systems," Miclette said. "We're dismissing them."
  • Miclette said getting people the help they need earlier on is going to reduce the demand on places like crisis call centers.

Yes, but: Primary care physicians, who already manage some of patients' behavioral health care needs, report "feeling overwhelmed, ill-equipped and underpaid," according to the Bipartisan Policy Center.

  • Adopting an integrated care model in the U.S. will require more investment, including training and access to a larger pool of behavioral health providers, the center says.

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (En español: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: dial 711 then 1-800-273-8255) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.


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