Valera raises $ 15 million for high acuity mental health care

In a market flooded with apps for texting a health coach or for meditation exercises, few address higher-profile mental health issues. Telehealth startup Valera Health is looking to change that.

The New York-based company recently closed a $ 15 million funding round, led by Windham Venture Partners. It offers virtual mental health services for a wide range of conditions, including depression, schizophrenia and PTSD.

Valera purchases insurance for their visits, and nearly a third of their patients access it through managed Medicaid plans.

Founder and CEO Dr Thomas Tsang has two goals for the company: to become a go-to resource for people with severe mental illness and to reach underserved communities.

“Where they go for treatment, we would like to be there too,” he said.

Tsang has experience in this area. Early in his career, he worked as the Marketing Director of Charles B. Wang Community Health Center, a federally licensed health center serving one of New York’s Asian-American communities.

He faced several challenges, including the fact that the health center only had one bilingual psychiatrist while serving over 60,000 patients who spoke Cantonese or Mandarin. To solve this problem, they made the psychiatrist a consulting member of the primary care teams.

Valera started out as a technology platform for behavioral health coordination, but the company expanded last year to add telehealth services during the pandemic. Patients begin with screening by a health coach, and their care is managed by teams of therapists, nurse practitioners, case managers and psychiatrists.

As investors invest increasing amounts in mental health, few startups are addressing serious mental health issues. To do this, Tsang said it was essential to hire providers with the right skills and experience, and to have the infrastructure in place to provide high-quality care.

“When you look at companies like Talkspace and others, they usually treat very light patients,” he said. “The moderate and severe group don’t have a lot of resources or access.”

It’s important to note that the company’s suppliers also speak multiple languages, and a significant portion of its suppliers identify with minority or LGBTQ communities, Tsang said.

The company is currently working with health plans in New York, New Jersey, and Arizona covering more than 12 million lives. For example, he works with frontline workers in New York City who needed quick access to mental health services.

The startup is also partnering with healthcare systems, with Washington-based MultiCare Health System joining its latest round of investment.

Looking to the future, Valera plans to expand into other states over the next year and enter into more value-based contracts with health plans. The startup is also recruiting for many positions, both on the commercial and clinical side.

Photo credit: Olga Strelnikova, Getty Images

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