Virtual mental health provider Talkspace (NASDAQ: TALK ) has signed a deal with digital addiction operator Bicycle Health to provide therapy and opioid use disorder (OUD) treatment to patients of both companies.
According to the 2022 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 21 million adults suffer from both a mental illness and a substance use disorder (SUD). More than 80% of them go untreated for one or two conditions.
Through the new partnership, Bicycle and Talkspace clinicians will be able to refer patients to either organization’s specialized care facilities through a direct referral pathway.
Bicycle CEO Ankit Gupta told Addiction Treatment Business in an email, “The partnership between two of the nation’s leading virtual care providers means access to high-quality OUD care and mental health care will improve exponentially. ”
Boston-based Bicycle provides medications to treat opioid use disorder (MOUD) through telemedicine, therapy, customized treatment plans and peer support groups. The startup raised $50 million in Series B funding in 2022, bringing its total funding to $83 million.
Bicycle recently partnered with Albertsons Companies Pharmacy to sell buprenorphine extended-release injections at 700 pharmacies in 17 states.
For Talkspace, a New York City-based mental health provider, the deal means its patients will have access to OUD-specific treatments, including MOUD, as well as therapists and coaches who specialize in OUD.
Nikole Benders-Hadi, chief medical officer at Talkspace, told ATB in an email: “Adding OUD specialty care options through Bicycle Health is our way of addressing the growing opioid crisis and the interconnectedness between OUD and other mental health challenges. “By partnering with Bicycle Health, we are expanding access to evidence-based treatments, including MOUD.”
Talkspace is known for its virtual, asynchronous therapy platform, which includes the ability to text with a therapist. The company said it is on track to achieve profitability by the end of the first quarter of 2024. The company recently announced it will serve Medicare and Medicare Advantage members.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 645,000 people have died from opioid overdoses from 1999 to 2021. Opioid-related deaths have increased significantly since the introduction of synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.
The partnership follows two deals between Talkspace and two public entities.
In December, Talkspace partnered with Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) to provide free therapy to more than 32,000 students.
A month ago, the company signed a deal with New York City to provide teens with access to the company’s therapists and intermittent check-ups.
Gupta told ATB that many Bicycle patients suffer from depression, anxiety or other behavioral health issues in addition to addiction.
People with SUD are more likely to develop other illnesses or conditions, including anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depressive disorder.
The collaboration will provide Bicycle’s patients with non-OUD-specific treatments, including marriage and family therapy and asynchronous therapy chats.
“Our care model is comprehensive, and while we provide MOUD, therapy and wraparound care, our clinical staff is focused on SUD,” Gupta said. “Many of our patients require behavioral health support outside of this specialty area. For example, marriage and family therapy can be helpful for many, as nearly 80 percent of our patients are parents.”
Gupta said patients’ treatment times would be longer if OUD was provided with comprehensive support and other challenges addressed.
Both companies said the partnership is part of a whole-person approach to care.
“We know that pharmacological management of opioid use disorder is more effective when treatment is provided alongside it, giving patients a whole-person approach to support their recovery,” Benders-Hardy said.