Valera raises $15M for high-acuity mental healthcare

In a market flooded with apps to text a health coach or for meditation exercises, few address higher-acuity mental health conditions. Telehealth startup Valera Health is looking to change this.

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 takes insurance for its visits, and nearly a third of its 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 serious mental illness, and to reach underserved communities.

“Where they go for care, we’d like to be there as well,” he said.

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

He had to navigate several challenges, including that the health center had just one bilingual psychiatrist while serving more than 60,000 patients who spoke Cantonese or Mandarin. To solve this, they made the psychiatrist a consulting member of primary care teams.

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

As investors pour growing amounts of funding into mental health, few startups provide care for serious mental health conditions. To do this, Tsang said it was critical to hire providers with the right skillsets and experience, and have the infrastructure in place to deliver high-quality care.

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

Importantly, the company’s providers also speak multiple languages, and a substantial portion of its providers 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 instance, it’s working with front-line workers in New York City who needed rapid access to mental health services.

The startup is also building partnerships with health systems, with Washington-based MultiCare Health System joining its most recent investment round.

Looking to the future, Valera plans to expand into additional states in the next year, and strike more value-based contracts with health plans. The startup is also hiring for lots of positions, both on the business and clinical side.

Photo credit: Olga Strelnikova, Getty Images

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