Ria Health, Monument See ‘Tremendous’ Growth in Telehealth Alcohol Abuse Treatment

In the last few years, telehealth companies providing digital treatment services for substance use disorder (SUD) have reported seeing “tremendous” growth.

That list includes Ria Health and Monument, which offer digital treatment services for alcohol abuse disorder (AUD). Representatives from the two companies recently reported that membership numbers are up, as are the number of health plans now covering their services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Telehealth company Ria Health allows users to access AUD care through their smartphones, usually treating people for an average of 10 months. Members using Ria’s platform are given access to one-on-one coaching support, licensed nurses and physicians, who consult and can prescribe medications to help with their treatment journey. The program encourages participants to reduce drinking and, ultimately, abstain from alcohol and measures progress with twice-daily breathalyzer readings.


Ria CEO Tom Nix told Behavioral Health Business that his San Francisco-based company has treated 4,800 people since its inception and $250,000 seed funding in 2013.

“Patients achieve [an estimated] 50% reduction in drinking over the first month with further reductions over time,” he said.

In the last two years, another AUD telehealth company, New York-based Monument, raised $17.8 million to grow its own digital treatment platform, which offers users access to physicians, therapists and an anonymous online community to help their recovery from alcohol abuse.


Now, the company is expanding treatment offerings to 20 states and offering 50 sessions of free therapist-support groups a week to its members, Monument CEO and Co-Founder Mike Russell told BHB. Russell declined to share specific numbers, but said the growth in Monument’s membership since its 2021 fundraising has been “tremendous.”

Initial findings from Monument’s internal research indicate that its users are highly engaged in their recovery through Monument, with 97.5% beginning treatment within 14 days, compared to the 40% industry average.

“Monument members in this cohort, on average, saw a 51% decrease in heavy drinking days per week by the 4th clinician appointment,” Russell told BHB.

Monument and Ria’s growth comes at a time when deaths from alcohol have doubled in America over the past 20 years, with an estimated one in 10 Americans living with SUD at some point in their lives. Health care startups have been raising hundreds of millions for point solutions to neurological conditions — including SUD – with the hope of making treatments like therapy and medicine more accessible to more people.

One Monument user the company cited in its research explained that telehealth treatment put them “at ease” because their “anxiety makes it difficult for me to visit a clinician or support group in person.”

‘A narrow and deep focus’

Both CEOs noted that the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic also had a part to play in the increased demand for their companies’ services.

Studies from the National Institute of Health suggest that people have been drinking more heavily during the pandemic, and researchers have also discovered a 25% uptick in alcohol-associated deaths between 2019 and 2021.

“We experienced an increased demand in treatment of more than 500% since the end of 2019,” Nix said. “The contracts with leading national payers provided needed access to the people who experienced alcohol misuse amplified by the pandemic.”

The pandemic has also exacerbated other addictions, notably the country’s opioid epidemic. NIH’s research also found that deaths due to opioid overdoses also involving alcohol increased by roughly 41% between 2019 and 2021. The research indicated that deaths due to synthetic opioids like fentanyl and alcohol increased by roughly 60% in the same time period.

But Ria and Monument representatives said the companies would not be branching out into OUD treatment services any time soon.

Nix noted that Ria patients appreciated Ria’s “specialist approach” to AUD treatment and that the company would “keep a narrow and deep focus” on AUD for now as the companies reviewed best practices for multi-addiction treatment services.

Likewise, Russel cited the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s 2020 estimates that 28.3 million Americans are living with AUD. He said Monument was “currently focused on supporting those people and providing the best quality care.”

‘The pandemic is not completely over’

Industry executives also do not need to expand to OUD treatment services as demand for AUD treatment continues to grow, especially as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

“The pandemic is not completely over. Many people remain socially isolated with disrupted communities, families and work,” Nix said. “We expect that as social isolation decreases many more people will present for treatment.”

Insurance companies may agree, as many have signed on to cover remote telehealth SUD treatment services in recent months.

In September, Ria Health announced a partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield to offer Pennsylvania-area residents access to its services. Now, Nix reports that Ria services are covered by health plans including Anthem, UnitedHealth’s Optum Health, Beacon Health Options, and as of just days ago, Magellan in California. Monument’s services are also now covered by dozens of health plans nationwide.

Written by Sloane Airey

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