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Exclusive: Flourish Labs seeds $6.6M for mental health peer support

Illustration of many different hands reaching for and holding up a therapy couch.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Flourish Labs, a San Francisco-based telehealth and training peer support platform for mental health, raised $6.6 million in seed funding, CEO Obi Felten tells Axios exclusively.

Why it matters: Cultural stigma surrounding mental health and a behavioral health provider shortage are leaving many patients untreated — while young adult suicide rates continue to rise.

Details: The lead investor in the round was Gradient Ventures and was co-led by Collaborative Fund, along with WGU, Learn Capital and One Mind.

How it works: Flourish Labs hires and trains young adults with experience of mental health challenges to become certified peer support specialists for young adults seeking mental health support.

  • The company's 80-hour training program takes about three months to complete. Flourish runs background checks on its peer specialists, who are overseen by a licensed clinician.
  • Flourish Lab's HIPAA-compliant telehealth platform, Peers.net, allows patients seeking support to search for and schedule 1:1 sessions with trained professional peer supporters.
  • Peer support is commonly used for addiction treatment, Felten says, though Flourish aims to eventually reach patients experiencing depression, anxiety, eating disorders, grief and trauma.
  • "Our aim with Peers.net is to professionalize 1:1 peer support as a broader mental health care option," she says.

What's next: Flourish is expanding to teenagers this week. The company only served young adults aged 18-30 previously.

  • Additionally, the company will look to expand to more provider groups, as well as penetrate schools and employers.

What they're saying: "Peer support training and service provision traditionally has been traditionally done by small organizations and nonprofits, in person in urban centers, without technology," she says.

  • "Peers.net solves an access issue," she says. "Therapists are overbooked and more casual alternatives like anonymous chats or group sessions don't offer the level of care needed for many individuals."
  • "We want to signal to the market, that we are working with the system and market and not outside it," she continues. "Peer support is an alternative they should try and now we need to convince the payers to pay for it."

Flashback: Felten spent most of her career in consumer technology, notching 15 years at Google and then Google X, where she helped launch Google Chrome and the Android system.

  • Her husband was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when they were both 29.
  • "He went undiagnosed for eight years and I saw and helped him through all of the up and down cycles that come with it," she says.
  • Through that process, she realized how important of a role peer support can play.

Of note: Marigold Health, which offers peer support for substance abuse, received $6 million in seed funding last year.

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