One of the biggest problems we face in helping people who struggle from mental illness is reducing the “pathway to care” from the first symptoms until treatment. The average duration from symptom to treatment in the U.S. is 15 months when the World Health Organization says it should be under 3 weeks.
Strong365, is a non-profit, and a subsidiary of OneMind. Chantel and her team are on a mission to connect people who need help, and the loved ones of those people, through online education, 24/7 peer support, and connection to specialized care centers across the U.S. in order to reduce the time to care for those who need it.
Chantel has a degree in applied economics from UC SF and lives in SF with her husband, 2 daughters, 1 dog and 5 chickens!
HERE ARE SOME OF THE THINGS WE TALKED ABOUT:
- What is Strong365? Strong365 was created in 2014 to shorten the pathway to care for young people facing their first episode of psychosis. They use digital channels to connect with teens and young adults about what psychosis is, provide educational information, and humanize their stories to reduce stigma. They also provide a directory of care centers around the US of which there are about 300 today (when in 2014 there were only 50). The federal government has helped support that growth.
- Why did she create Strong365? The idea came from a personal experience. Her brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was 20, and he is now 40 years old. It has been a long road, and he’s doing well, but it took about 15 of those 20 years to find quality and effective care. There is a huge gap, particularly for young people, that are experiencing mental health issues outside the realm of what most people usually talk about.
While on sabbatical in 2014, Chantel researched this topic of how to find care for psychosis. She realized the lack of options for help and wanted to create something. So, she started Strong365 to use her marketing background to promote a new model of care. This care is called “Coordinated Specialty Care.” The National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) did a study on this model leveraging more than 20 sites. The outcome of this study is that young people do so much better if they get care early in their mental health journey than waiting until some sort of disruptive crisis sends them to the ER or inpatient care.
- The average time that passes between the first episode of psychosis and getting care is about 1 year and 3 month today in the United States. The World Health Organization has set a goal for that to be 3 weeks globally. ‘The time to care’ is the biggest lever in the long-term health outcomes of young people with early psychotic disorders like schizophrenia.
- How do people find you? People typically don’t come in for help on behalf of themselves. Typically, it’s a parent or some adult that helps a young person come to care. The number one referrer of people to care are inpatient units in the U.S. We consider this failing because most people are coming for help after a very traumatic event that leads them to the ER and or inpatient treatment.
- How can we reduce the time to care gap? Strong365 is piloting a project in NY state to test their approach. They have partnered with 23 clinics (all are coordinated specialty care clinics that treat young adults with psychosis). They are trying to figure out “what role digital media can play in meeting a young person directly where they are at the right time, with the right information and support.” This pilot program is funded by the NIH and is a 3-year grant.
- How soon can we solve this problem? We talked about how solutions in this space move at a snail’s pace. While Chantel has a very entrepreneurial spirit and wants to see solutions in market ASAP, she must work around funding concerns, clinical concerns, finding the right partners, and building a team to execute once all those hurdles have been overcome.
Today, the care system for young people experiencing psychosis is a very manual, fragmented system. Usually, someone comes into an ER, and the ER looks them up in an EHR (database) to see what specialty provider to call. It’s a manual, slow, and impersonal process that is not working for young people.
- Chantel and Strong365 have partnered with several organizations. As mentioned above, the NIH has funded their latest work, but they also work closely with Mental Health America (MHA), which has a mental health screening tool on their website that screens for psychosis. However, MHA has admitted to Strong365 that they struggle helping someone after the screen results are presented. A lot of the times, people just disappear from MHA once the screen is completed. This is the problem that needs to be solved.
- Funding for Strong365 is primarily provided by family foundations. Some money is also provided by NIH research grants as mentioned above in the specific use case we discussed on the podcast. We talked a bit about her fund-raising challenges and how hard it was to get funding in the first few years as a “startup” non-profit.
- Personally, Chantel spends her time teaching yoga and mindfulness in underprivileged neighborhoods to people who may not normally have access to yoga studios and mindfulness apps. She explains that mindfulness is something she discovered by the function of needing to take care of herself and now she looks to share that experience and the positive benefits of mindfulness with others.