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Mental health

A Utah County-based telehealth company secured $3 million in funding to expand services to include mental health resources for essential employees and their families.

Tava Health, a mental telehealth platform for employers, announced the funding Tuesday. The funds will be used to help Tava Health expand counseling and other mental health resources.

Specifically, Tava Health CEO Dallen Allred said the company will be using the money to establish a presence in other states as well as expanding Tava Health’s product and software engineering team to bring more resources to the platform while making it more user friendly.

“We’d like to add additional things that let users talk with a therapist outside of the stereotypical hour-a-week session and make it feasible for users to do that in a way that doesn’t overburden their therapist,” Allred said.

The company was founded to help employees find affordable and accessible mental healthcare options.

By partnering with other corporations, Tava Health is able to provide employees with telehealth counseling sessions at no cost to them; the employees’ employers pay for all of it.

Since the pandemic, and subsequent economic crisis, began, Allred said, the company has seen an almost 300% increase in users on its telehealth platform.

“We assume that’s because of extra stress, extra anxiety because of the pandemic or the economic challenges or social isolation,” he said. “We’re seeing significantly higher levels of need.”

Ordinarily, but especially now, Allred said employers have a number of incentives that make it desirable to invest in the mental health of their employees.

Not only are mentally healthy employees more productive, he said, but those diagnosed with depression or anxiety are nine times more likely to go on disability and are absent from work 2.5 times more. Employees with mental illness also, generally, need more medical attention.

“Investing in mental health, like helping your employees get preventative care or getting a wellness checkup, or maybe getting a flu shot,” Allred said. “If we can elevate mental health where it is seen as a preventative activity, like getting your teeth cleaned, then employers and employees will be better off.”

Chatbooks co-founder and CEO Nate Quigley said his company began working with Tava Health in January.

For almost a decade, Chatbooks attempted to match other healthcare plans and providers in its area, but over the years, the company has become more aware of the importance of mental health, he said.

“It’s really easy to get a pair of eyeglasses if you’re having trouble seeing and everybody knows that you go to the dentist twice a year to get your teeth cleaned, but then there’s this whole huge aspect of our health, our mental health, that you just don’t know what to do,” he said.

That’s when Quigley discovered Tava Health.

Chatbooks signed up with Tava Health, enthusiastically, Quigley said, and is astonished at the response of its team members.

By March, almost 50% of its employees have signed up for the mental health resources available on the platform. Additionally, he said, 25% of the company’s employees had already spoken with a mental health professional.

“We’ve always tried to provide great health benefits to our team members because we want them to be able to feel happy, healthy and supported, so they’re able to do their best work,” Quigley said.

Utahns, specifically, are in a unique situation that makes finding accessible, affordable mental healthcare more challenging.

Not only does the state have incredibly high rates of youth suicide, Allred said, but Utah is ranked No. 48 out of 51 states and territories for accessibility to mental health professionals, mostly due to the lack of clinicians and the high demand for help.

“It’s really hard to do a root-cause analysis,” Allred said. “The things I can say more concretely is we do have a challenge with narrower insurance networks, specifically in Utah, and we have a largely rural population.”

The state’s younger average age, he said, also helps drive up demand as Generation Z is significantly more likely to utilize mental health resources than older generations.

Right now, the average wait time to see a clinician in Utah is 25 days.

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