It’s back-to-school season! While the time brings about a sense of excitement and optimism for many, schools are bracing themselves to manage the harsh reality of the youth mental health crisis. With nearly one in five children having a mental, emotional, developmental, or behavioral disorder, there has always been a need for better support services and treatment. The pandemic, unfortunately, only added to these pre-existing challenges, particularly the time to receive treatment. Today, children and their families can wait more than two months before seeing a provider — if they can even find one that accepts their insurance.
Schools are at the frontline of care for these youth. Given the higher engagement in care and stronger follow-through, school-based mental health care can lead to better, faster care compared to direct-to-consumer models or traditional outpatient clinics. However, schools, too, have been devastated by the pandemic and are struggling to stay afloat; 70% of public schools report seeing a rise in the number of children seeking mental health services over the past two years, but only 12% believe they can meet their student’s needs, which has led to unprecedented levels of burnout in K-12 workers.
At General Catalyst, we believe that meeting people where they are and intervening early with personalized, affordable, and continuous care is key to changing the trajectory of health outcomes and health equity in the United States. Thus, finding a solution to this youth mental health crisis and leveraging this opportune care environment is imperative to us. Last year, we invested in Cartwheel Care’s seed round and today we are pleased to announce our investment in its $20M Series A financing to advance its mission to end the youth mental health crisis. We believe Cartwheel Care’s platform is helping schools return to balance with rapid access to affordable, evidence-based care for students and families.
In the wake of the pandemic, schools finally have hundreds of millions of dollars in funding to invest in their mental health programs — they just need help doing so. That’s where Cartwheel comes in. Cartwheel’s model is rooted in the Multi-Tiered System of Support, the gold-standard for school-based mental health care. Every student, no matter where they are in their mental health journey, can access an appropriate level of year-round support — from individual therapy, group therapy, and family therapy to medication support — all without a waitlist.
In keeping with our Health Assurance mandate, Cartwheel ensures affordability for schools and families by combining school funding with reimbursement from health insurers. Cartwheel accepts 99% of all major insurers and will ensure their partner schools can support any student in need, including those on Medicaid. Cartwheel is currently available in five states — including Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Illinois, and Rhode Island — with plans to expand offerings on the horizon.
We believe Cartwheel is unique in that they think holistically about the population that they serve, executing an approach that mirrors our radical collaboration mindset. In addition to the dedicated Care Team of licensed therapists, child psychiatrists, and a full-time care manager they provide, Cartwheel delivers skill-building workshops for parents and offers professional development for teachers, so that the workers and families caring for our youth are supported and resourced. As Cartwheel builds trusted relationships with school districts and charter networks (50 and counting), we also see incredible potential for them to build technology, such as a proprietary online portal, that helps schools better support the health of their entire community.
Beyond our conviction in the need for a solution like the one Cartwheel is building, we are particularly excited to partner with this team. Co-founders Joe and Daniel are two of the most passionate healthcare entrepreneurs we’ve met — they approach this problem with intentionality and compassion that comes from years of personal experience. Joe previously worked with more than 700 schools to implement social-emotional learning curriculum centered on LGBTQ+ identities. Daniel previously served as a policy advisor to the US Surgeon General, leading the development of the Surgeon General's Advisory on Protecting Youth Mental Health. Together, they see the bigger picture around how healthcare and public education fit together and have worked hard to build a team that can execute that vision by pulling from experiences in the government, at nonprofits, and top hospitals and universities.
We are thrilled to continue this journey with Cartwheel as a company in our Health Assurance network! If you are interested in joining them, please take a look at their open roles or reach out. You can hear more about what they’re working on in this NPR highlight.