Virtual provider Equip announced that it is expanding its scope of care to treat adults with eating disorders.
The San Diego-based provider got its start treating people with eating disorders under the age of 24. There is also a substantial need for eating disorder care in the adult population, however.
Additional funding from General Catalyst, one of the company’s series B investors, made the expansion possible. While the company declined to disclose the funding amount, SEC documents reveal that the funding amount was worth roughly $20 million.
Nearly 30 million Americans will have an eating disorder in their lifetime. Most of these disorders, which include seven distinct conditions, begin in childhood. But because most people with eating disorders do not get treatment, many adults live with the condition.
Equip’s new expansion will allow adults with eating disorders to tap into virtual eating disorder therapy.
“There’s a prevailing myth that eating disorders only affect young people, but that’s just simply not true,” Erin Parks, co-founder and chief clinical officer at Equip, told Behavioral Health Business. “Just as we want the 10-year-old to be happy, have joy and not have their brain be monopolized by thoughts of food in their body, we want the same thing for 35-year-olds, 45-year-olds and 55-year-olds.”
The newly minted program for adults has over 15 contracts with payers so far, including most national payers and a few Medicaid plans. It plans to continue expanding this list.
There aren’t enough eating disorder providers to meet the patient demand, meaning most patients end up on waitlists, Parks said. Getting treatment in-person and coordinating with multiple providers to build a care team adds to the challenge.
“Virtual should be the first choice,” Parks said about. “Virtual allows treatment to fit into your life instead of rearranging life for your treatment schedule. When treatment is convenient, people are more likely to stick with it.”
Equip has treated over 2,000 patients since its founding in 2019 and boasts that 92% of its patients get better through its evidence-informed, fully digital treatment system.
Virtual appointments also allow patients’ support systems, including siblings, best friends or parents, to participate in treatment, increasing the chance of a full recovery.
To prepare for the expansion into adult populations, Equip hired Nikia Bergan as its first-ever president in June. Starting a year ago, the company also pivoted its continuing education program, which requires employees to receive three hours of supervision and training each week to focus exclusively on treating adults.
Equip primarily utilizes family-based treatment, which involves working with the family to help structure the patient’s life and pro-health behaviors for their younger patients.
With adults, support systems often look different. Equip will rely on cognitive behavior-enhanced (CBT-E) therapy for older patients, while still helping build support systems and involve loved ones in therapy.
The expansion to adults was a long time coming, Parks said. The increased purview was financed entirely by the additional investment from General Catalyst.
The investor initially had only a “tiny seat at the table” with its initial series B investment. It significantly increased its funding for the expansion and now has a seat on Equip’s board.
With the newest investment, the startup has now raised over $75 million since its inception.
Equip plans to focus on its program for adults and continue working to help underserved populations before it begins to look at other types of expansion.
“The longer that we think that eating disorders are just in white young women, the longer most people with eating disorders will suffer because eating disorders affect everyone,” Parks said.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include the funding amount listed in Equip’s latest SEC filing.