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State of the Union excludes frontier health care approaches to address the mental health crisis

Surve urges President Biden to expand his thinking in response to the State of the Union remarks surrounding mental health.

Biden-Harris Administration can accelerate mental health access and deliver better outcomes by going beyond traditional solutions

The World Health Organization (WHO) sounded the alarm of a parallel pandemic spreading alongside COVID-19 – a mental health pandemic. During their March 1, 2022 State of the Union address, the Biden-Harris Administration answered the call, announcing a national strategy to combat America’s mental health crisis.

Its focus on traditional approaches may do more harm than good. Standard care models’ supply levels were already critically low before the COVID-19 pandemic: There aren’t enough providers, and it takes seven to fifteen years to put a therapist through the pipeline.

Health entertainment and DTx pioneers like Litesprite should be harnessed instead. The administration should focus efforts and policies, including reimbursement mechanisms, encourage and accelerate the adoption of technology-first or technology-only solutions.

Since our founding in 2013, we are a leading voice in improving mental health access, addressing mental health inequities, and reaching underserved populations. And we have a track record of working with governmental agencies, like Health and Human Services and the U.S. Armed Forces.

We strongly encourage the Biden-Harris Administration to be more inclusive and forward-reaching through an emphasis on the adoption of technology-based approaches to enable 21st-century care delivery models. It is the only way we will be able to meet the needs of the 52.9 million (and counting) Americans experiencing mental health issues.

What the Biden-Harris Administration can do today to strengthen their new mental health strategy

Evidence-based community mental health services

The Biden-Harris Administration is focused on expanding Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics and Community Mental Health Centers. This is much-needed funding, but it doesn’t address the care gaps and health inequities due to the current mental health provider shortage which may take decades to resolve. We encourage the Biden-Harris Administration to expand community mental health funding to include technology-based solutions or services. Using digital-first interventions has the potential to reduce barriers to care, such as transportation difficulties, and may be a productive avenue to more effectively reach underserved communities.

Mental well-being of our frontline health workforce

Providers have used our self-help tools to manage their own stress during the pandemic. Our platform also provides valuable data they can use to efficiently deliver care to patients and may reduce burnout.

Investing in research on new practice models 

We also encourage the Biden-Harris Administration to increase funding for innovative research that examines new practice models, including technology-first or technology-only interventions, such as digital therapeutics, that have the potential to address the need-to-service gap in mental health care.

Integrating mental health and substance use treatment into primary care settings

Our platform provides valuable data clinicians can use to efficiently deliver care, remotely monitor patients, and receive reimbursement. We are one of the few mental health solutions that have validated reimbursement in primary care. 

In 2015, we worked with Arizona’s first integrated behavioral health clinic and gained valuable insights into how to effectively integrate into clinical care settings and workflows.  Our platform incorporates the kind of tools and payment models that the Biden-Harris Administration suggests would support primary care providers in being able to more effectively identify, treat, and manage behavioral health conditions. Furthermore, these types of information technologies make delivering care more efficient and concurrently reduce provider burnout. 

We encourage the Administration to expand funding to include incentives and expand reimbursement for providers to adopt technologies that facilitate new care models that can be incorporated into stepped care, used in conjunction to support ongoing mental health services, and can support the maintenance of treatment gains during and following therapeutic interventions.

Expanding access to virtual mental health care options

The Biden-Harris Administration is focused on ensuring access to tele-mental health services. We applaud the Administration’s focus on expanding mental health service access to telehealth and encourage the administration to also consider funding other strategies that have re-imagined how mental healthcare can be delivered and have the potential to go beyond today’s telehealth solutions. We encourage the expansion of this pillar to include platforms like ours where clinicians can implement new care models where patients are empowered to take care of themselves while being remotely monitored by a clinician.

For example, we’ve worked with local agencies, like the City of New York, to disseminate our platform, an all-ages mental health video game that has been named NYC’s #1 choice for depression support. We offer this self-help resource for free because everyone, especially at-risk youth, should have as few barriers to finding help as possible. 

We’ve found the medium of mobile gaming to be a great way to meet people where they’re at. Gaming offers a unique avenue that can promote engagement and enhance access through leveraging technology that is accessible on most modern-day mobile devices. Through using gaming, we hope to offer an avenue to mental health services that can address the critical need-to-service gap that plagues the current mental health system.

Embedding and co-locating mental health and substance use providers into community-based settings

Our platform can be used in a range of settings from employers to community centers, FQHC, and schools.

Be part of a better solution

If you or your organization wants to get involved, here’s what we recommend: 

  • Support our HHS (and other) efforts to address youth mental health
  • Partner with us to expand the gaming industry’s understanding of the intersection of health and play
  • Spread the word: Encourage colleagues, friends, and family to download our Sinasprite mental health app for iOS or Android to manage their anxiety, depression, PTSD, or substance abuse for free 

About Litesprite

Litesprite, an award-winning digital health entertainment studio, builds games to help people of all ages manage chronic mental health conditions and is a recognized leader in digital therapeutics. We are the first company to build a clinically-validated, family-friendly mental health video game, Sinasprite, complete with several reimbursement pathways. Sinasprite is designed to be a stand-alone self-help tool that can also be integrated into care settings, and it’s the only one recommended by clinics and municipalities nationwide. 

Our “frontier healthcare technology,” garnered more than 25 global health innovation awards, including the first videogame to win a U.S. Surgeon General award and recognition from the U.S. State Department. We have also received financial awards and strategic investments from the U.S. Army, Bayer Pharmaceuticals, AARP, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, SXSW, NexCube, Jumpstart Foundry, and the Livestrong Foundation.