To tackle the growing mental health crisis facing children and adolescents and the difficulties families face accessing treatments for disorders such as anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), two McLean Hospital-affiliated clinicians have launched an innovative virtual treatment program called InStride Health.
InStride Health, which currently operates in Massachusetts and has plans to expand its services nationally, has raised $26M in venture investment, including from Mass General Brigham Ventures, .406 Ventures and Valtruis.
InStride Health provides a virtual care model in which children and adolescents with moderate to severe anxiety and OCD participate in individual, family, and group therapy, coaching and medication management sessions tailored to their needs.
Finding any one of these services locally can pose challenges for families due to limited availabilities and long waiting lists from a small pool of specialized mental health providers. This prompted Mona Potter, MD, and Kathryn Boger, PhD, ABPP, founding co-directors of the McLean Anxiety Mastery Program (MAMP), to seek a virtual solution that provides more convenient access to comprehensive, evidence-based care directly to children and adolescents.
"Over almost two decades of clinical work, I have seen how exhausting and overwhelming anxiety and OCD can be for families," said Potter, InStride chief medical officer and co-founder, who previously served as medical director of McLean's Child and Adolescent Outpatient Services where she helped build MAMP and the McLean School Consultation Service, where she still serves as a consultant. "I also have seen how life-changing the right treatment can be. It has been heartbreaking to see how hard it is for families to get help, with too many kids unnecessarily ending up in emergency rooms or inpatient units. This is why it was essential for us to build InStride and become a bigger part of the solution."
Pediatric mental health crisis leaves gaps for crucially needed treatments
Mental health challenges are a growing epidemic among children and adolescents in the United States. Nearly one in five U.S. children have a mental, emotional, or behavioral disorder like anxiety, depression, and OCD, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Yet these families are plagued by difficulties with access to appropriate care, with only about 20 percent of affected children receiving treatment from a mental health specialist. Mental health challenges have only been exacerbated by isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to federal survey data.
Without access to helpful treatments, these children and adolescents experience challenges in school and can also be at risk for a crisis leading to emergency treatment at a hospital.
Such consequences could be prevented with early interventions and effective treatment, which led Potter and Boger to aim to apply the successes they saw from the MAMP program to a more accessible and scalable virtual care delivery model.
"We could no longer stand idly by while we heard from countless families stuck on long waitlists as their child's symptoms worsened," said Boger, chief clinical officer and co-founder of InStride, and founding clinical program director of MAMP where she is still a senior consultant. "InStride gives us the ability to reach more children and adolescents with anxiety and OCD and provide them with the right care when they need it most."
Evidence-backed care model bolstered by hospital and industry partnership
Children and adolescents between the ages of 7-22 who have moderate to severe anxiety and/or OCD (and can have co-occurring depression, ADHD, high functioning autism) are eligible to enroll in InStride. The treatment timeline consists of two to four months of intensive care, followed by two months of step-down care and a maintenance phase, depending on need. Treatment sessions are tailored towards each family's needs and designed to accommodate their schedules. All sessions are provided virtually where clinicians utilize evidence-based therapy approaches including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure and response prevention (ERP), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).
The services are covered by a growing list of insurance companies in the New England area and because of the platform approach and portfolio of clinicians, generally have no waitlists. Interested families can complete an online application after which a member of the care team will schedule a virtual intake appointment.
McLean Hospital, part of Mass General Brigham, is providing a range of advisory services to continuously improve InStride treatment programs with real world field experience.
There is power in the InStride-McLean collaboration. During their tenure at McLean, Drs. Potter and Boger demonstrated deep expertise and passion for helping children and families with anxiety. They are leaders in pediatric mental health and we are thrilled to work with them as they expand access to outpatient anxiety care and achieve their vision."
Scott L. Rauch, MD, President and Psychiatrist in Chief, McLean Hospital
The InStride launch represents the first commercialization of a Mass General Brigham hospital care pathway, a growth opportunity for the future that translates the expertise and care capabilities of MGB and its affiliated hospitals to a wider patient population. Carl Berke, PhD, a Mass General Brigham Ventures Partner, serves on the company Board of Directors.