Equip, a virtual eating disorder treatment provider, has raised $13 million in Series A funding, the company announced Wednesday. That brings Equip’s total funding raised up to $17 million.
Optum Ventures led the funding round, with additional participation from new investor .406 Ventures and existing funder F-Prime Capital.
Founded in 2019, Equip aims to make eating disorder treatment more accessible by remotely delivering family-based care to patients on their schedules, working closely with payers to ensure the services are affordable.
“It is next to impossible to assemble an outpatient care team in your own community — and certainly not one that’s actually covered by your insurance,” Kristina Saffran, co-founder and CEO of Equip, told Behavioral Health Business. “We wanted to make this very accessible. People really need outpatient treatment, and they haven’t been able to access it.”
Equip sets up each patient up with a five-person care team, which consists of a peer and family mentor, a therapist, a dietician and a medical physician, such as a psychiatrist, primary care doctor or pediatrician. All of those clinicians are W-2 employees of Equip, and they deliver care 100% virtually. Families have access to an unlimited number of sessions with those providers. Plus, they can message the care team anytime using a shared medical record.
“That way, instead of rearranging your schedule for treatment, treatment can fit your schedule,” Equip co-founder and Chief Clinical Officer Erin Parks told BHB.
That’s the thinking behind Equip’s outpatient nature and family-based treatment (FBT) model, too. FBT is an evidence-based practice that involves the whole family in solving a child’s eating disorder, and studies have found it to be highly effective. Meanwhile, outpatient care allows patients to get better without missing out on normal adolescent experiences, like going to middle school.
“It’s not enough for people to have access to any treatment,” said Saffran, who recovered from anorexia as a teen. “It’s really important for people to have access to treatment that works.”
Saffran has been focused on improving access in the eating disorder treatment space for years. At age 15, she founded the nonprofit Project Heal with the mission to make eating disorders treatment more equitable.
Meanwhile, Parks is a clinical psychologist by training who has spent the past 10 years at the UC San Diego Eating Disorders Center for Treatment and Research, which is widely regarded as one of the best in the country.
The pair founded Equip to fill the holes they saw in the eating disorder treatment landscape, using evidence-based practices to help patients nationwide find long-term recovery as quickly, as easily and as affordably as possible.
“We’re collecting data to make sure that people are recovering, and that they’re recovering as quickly as they can,” Parks said. “The more time you’re spending ill, that’s time that you can’t get back, … so we are really investing in our research team and collaborations with different universities to make sure that we are bringing data-driven care that’s constantly getting better.”
Currently, Equip’s services are available to those between the ages of six and 24 in California, New York and Texas. But Saffran and Parks hope to change that in 2021 and beyond. After fielding requests from parents all over the globe, they’re working to enter another five to seven states in the near future. Some of those markets include New Jersey, Washington, Ohio and Florida.
Equip’s Series A funding will help finance its expansion into new states, in addition to allowing the company to deepen its partnerships with commercial and Medicaid payers, the duo told BHB.
Typically, eating disorder treatment providers struggle to get insurers to reimburse for their services. But Saffran and Parks have had success in partnering with payers by sharing the cost — and cost-savings — of their services, as well as the outcomes associated with it.
“We said, ‘Look, this is the reality of eating disorders: They affect a lot more people than you think they do, … and they’re quite costly,’” Saffran said. “‘But there is good evidence-based care that can get people better, keep them better, and by the way, it’s a fraction of the cost when you give people holistic outpatient care that actually works.’”
Equip also plans to use its new funding to further develop its technology platform and build out its clinical team, with the goal being to double its team in the next year, according to Saffran.