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"Health companies and payors should work together to drive change in mental health care."

June 13, 2021

Alex Alvarado, founder and CEO of Daybreak Health, talks in an interview with The FORM Post about Daybreak’s successes and the future of the mental health industry. 

Daybreak Health is an online mental health therapy platform for teenagers. Alex’s story is moving and cathartic. He felt powerless as he witnessed his brother suffer from depression throughout high school. Years went by as his parents tried to find the right therapist that could help him live a better life. A shortage of therapists, combined with a lack of specialists who could work teenagers, meant that his brother had to suffer until he was able to find help in his adolescent years.

Moved by his experience, Alex Alvarado founded Daybreak Health with the mission to help adolescents overcome their mental health problems. Today, Daybreak has a sizable network of therapists specializing in teenage mental health. With a high rate of engagement and a remarkable treatment success rate, Daybreak plans on expanding their services to teenagers and families free of charge through their health insurance. 


The FORM Post: Alex, looking back and forward on the journey of Daybreak Health: What are you proud to have accomplished so far and what’s the next milestone? 

 

So far, we've focused on the quality milestone: we've built a clinical service and product that is both engaging and drives outcomes. In terms of engagement, 90% of patients who attend their first session engage for more than a month. With respect to outcomes, 90% of patients see behavioral progress, and 60% of patients who complete treatment see significant clinical progress on standard clinical metrics.

 

Up next is the access milestone. I'm most excited to cross the barrier where Daybreak can be provided free of charge to families, through their insurance, later this year.  


The FORM Post: Daybreak offers treatment services online, which might seem controversial given that some mental health problems originate from too much screen time. Where do you see advantages and challenges of online therapy? 


The way we think about this is: "not all screen time is created equal". The majority of the issues with screen time today originate from social media, which causes self-doubt and self-image issues. Another big cause is video games, which have the same dangerous addictive principles at play as many harmful substances. 

There is a big difference between interpersonal screen time, which is interactive and personal, and passive screen time like watching TV or browsing social media. Counseling with Daybreak is active screen time, and does not contribute to negative mental health like other mediums might.  

Additionally, it increases access and reaches populations that would not be reached by in-person therapy. It may not always be as effective as in-person therapy, but that is irrelevant because the real comparison for most of the kids we work with is: virtual therapy or no therapy.


The FORM Post: COVID-19 continues to heavily impact the mental health industry. People are paying attention to mental health, and record funding is being poured into mental health startups. What are some of the major trends and innovations you’re seeing in the mental health industry today?


First, a massive move towards specialized treatment. You've seen specialized treatment pop up for specific conditions like OCD [Obsessive-compulsive disorder] or eating disorders, for specific populations like adolescents or populations of color. This is necessary as not all mental health conditions are created equal, and different conditions and populations require different treatment models. This is the same as physical health: imagine if your kid's primary doctor was the same as yours. It wouldn't work. This trend is just beginning and will continue to grow. Behavioral health will be a $100B+ industry and there is a lot of room for $10B+ sub-markets.

Second, an understanding by health tech companies and payors that they can and should work together to drive change. COVID helped accelerate payors willingness to work with digital solutions, and that will continue into the future too. 


The FORM Post: For the new generation of entrepreneurs looking to dive into the mental health space, where do you see potential domains where major progress can be made?


As mentioned previously, there will be a huge and growing market for specialized behavioral health solutions for specific condition segments and specific populations.

I also think there is a massive opportunity to enable providers of behavioral healthcare with infrastructure: behavioral health EHRs [Electronic health records], patient engagement platforms, outcomes measurement tools, provider management platforms — all tailored to behavioral health. Selfishly, this is the segment where I would love to see the most innovation, because it would help Daybreak, and the many other providers businesses that are launching today.


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