Photo: Nick Garcia
Anna Lindow's mental health care company fulfills a passion and a need
At least one in every five Americans suffers from a mental illness, yet more than half don’t get treatment or medication.
Brave Health is a virtual clinic for mental and behavioral health care that accepts major insurance plans, Medicaid and Medicare. Brave manages the care process and brings the care to the patient. Its more than 100 providers allow the company to treat most illnesses and disorders, including substance abuse.
“My dad is a teacher. My mom was a professional opera singer. And I was so fortunate to grow up with parents who felt a calling in their work.” Lindow was a liberal arts major — American studies and writing — at Columbia in New York and graduated into the Great Recession. She didn’t feel a calling until she landed at General Assembly in New York, a fast-growing startup that helps adults gain technology skills, after a couple of years working in various marketing jobs. That’s when she began working with students and instructors solving operational puzzles in a leadership role. “I really felt like I got to do what I do best every day and have an impact on thousands of people's career pathways.”
As one of GA’s first employees, she thrived. She was soon running the flagship New York City campus and after that traveling and opening GA locations around the world, when she began feeling the inner pull to start her own company around a personal passion: Making an impact on mental health services. GA’s co-founder and then-CEO Jake Schwartz joined her as cofounder and executive chairman. Lindow moved to Miami to start Brave Health.
Brave Health’s Evolution
In 2018, Lindow initially opened a clinic focused on treating opioid abusers. But patients told her it was hard to get to the office and they wished the treatments were covered by insurance. That validated for Lindow her plan to be a 100% telehealth business that accepts insurance. The patients also asked for additional care — help with depression, anxiety or PTSD, for example. “And when we talked to health plans, they said we love what you're doing, but what about people's other current mental health conditions? That's when we said we're going to expand what we’re doing.”
By late 2019, Brave Health was treating patients via telehealth in Florida, accepting some insurance and approved as a Medicaid provider in the state. “So 2020 for us was the year to do everything we could to serve individuals needing behavioral health care during an unprecedented time.”
The Pandemic Challenge
Demand for mental health care has exploded. Brave Health’s business grew 20-fold in 2020, and today, even as many people have started returning to the office, Brave Health attracts "hundreds of patients every week.” The startup has contracts with 113 health plans, including Florida Blue, Humana, Cigna and Aetna.
High Growth Stage
Brave Health has added specialty areas and developed centers of excellence, began treating adolescents and added group therapy and maternal health. It also continues to work on its technology, shunning bells and whistles for a platform that is easy to learn and use.
The company has expanded into North Carolina, Georgia, New York, Texas, Kentucky and Alabama with other states expected to be announced this year. As of August, it raised $10.75 million in venture capital.
Brave Health employs about 160 providers — psychiatrists, mental health counselors, social workers and nurse practitioners.
Brave Health has competition but is targeting the Medicaid population because it is historically underserved and ignored by many of its rivals. Today, about two-thirds of its cases are Medicaid. In addition to Florida, Brave is approved in about 10 states to accept Medicaid patients (not all launched yet), with more in the pipeline.
Advice to Entrepreneurs
Lindow likens starting a company to getting a tattoo. “You can’t just flip through a book and pick out an idea. The idea, like a tattoo, must find you, and it’s always going to be a part of you.”
Read more in Florida Trend's October issue.
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