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Event Recap: New Models In Addressing Mental Health

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Medical Alley has long been recognized as a place where innovation happens. The life-changing work that is done here often happens because people with diverse backgrounds and ideas join together to solve critical problems, and the results are life-improving, deeply meaningful discoveries and advances.

To show the amazing work happening in Medical Alley and to, hopefully, accelerate the serendipity sometimes necessary for truly transformative ideas to take shape, the Medical Alley Association has launched a series of afternoon discussions called “Leading the Conversation” each focused around one of healthcare’s most daunting challenges.

The first of these conversations took place on Wednesday, July 25, and focused on new models for addressing mental health. Speakers from industry leaders like Medibio and Learn to Live gathered with care providers from Peoples Incorporated, Boynton Health at the University of Minnesota, and West End Consultation Group, as well as emerging tech companies like The Oxygen Plan and AiR Healthcare Solutions, to share their experience of how pervasive mental health issues are and what is working to help address the problem.

The statistics shared on the scope of the issue were sobering. Jack Cosentino, CEO and managing director of Medibio, opened the event with the key number: worldwide 450 million people per year will be diagnosed with a mental illness, and Dr. Russ Morfitt of Learn to Live told the crowd that 47 percent of the US population will, at some point in their lifetime, have a diagnosable mental health event, but less than a quarter of them will seek help. Dr. Marie Olseth of West End Consultation Group and an advisor to Medibio, cited the gap between mental health and physical health treatments, even as the distinction between the two is becoming more and more artificial, and AiR Healthcare’s CEO Jaclyn Wainwright noted that while much of current mental healthcare is focused on suicide prevention, “Why are we treating a chronic disease state as though it were acute?”

But the stark reality of the challenge couldn’t cast a pall on the proceedings, not when there is so much cause for hope. Dr. Gary Christenson of Boynton and Jill Wiedemann-West of People Incorporated shared stories of effective care, treating vulnerable populations proactively and helping them get care before their situations turned dire. Wainwright was joined by Adam Moen, founder of Marbles Analytics; Jeremy Schroetter, CTO of Medibio; and Eric Lucas, founder and CTO of The Oxygen Plan, each of whom presented their contribution to the fight for better mental health.

Advances in digital health have allowed treatment to reach patients where they are at, rather than forcing a patient to come to a doctor’s office, which is helping those in need get care more quickly and more often. Directly addressing the issue of reimbursement – which can be an issue for emerging companies – Blue Cross Blue Shield’s Brendan Shane conveyed a receptiveness from the payer side to look seriously at new models for mental health, noting that solving a problem like this was going to take everyone’s best efforts.

The quality of these discussions and the hopefulness that came out of them is exactly what MAA hoped for when this session was originally discussed. Attendees left knowing better what specific challenges mental health providers are addressing, but also better aware of what tools are available to help in the fight.

The next Leading the Conversation will take place on November 6 at The Hutton House and will focus on value-based healthcare.

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