GEHA Ventures made its first investment in You Are Accountable to enable better access to substance use disorder treatment care.
New York City-based You Are Accountable raised $2 million late last year in a funding round led by GEHA Ventures. The recently formed venture capital investment entity invested in the startup because Accountable’s focus is on sustaining recovery past treatment and into the maintenance phase.
“Accountable’s team has a proven track record of not only being mission-first but also operating profitably, efficiently, and effectively in the behavioral health space across multiple ventures,” Kiel Dowlin, managing director for GEHA Ventures, told Addiction Treatment Business. “We believe with our capital and partnership, they will be able to compound the enormous impact they have on the lives of those in recovery and their families.”
GEHA Ventures was formed by Government Employees Health Association Inc. (GEHA), a nonprofit medical and dental health plan provider for federal employees and retirees. The organization’s focus is on helping GEHA members “be healthy and well.”
This focus will bring peer support, toxicology monitoring, care coordination and social-enforcement-focused contingency management for substance use disorder (SUD) to GEHA members and brings commercially insured customers to You Are Accountable, another first brought on by the deal. You Are Accountable previously operated on a cash-pay basis.
GEHA covers over 2 million people.
The deal is also something of a departure from the modus operandi for You Are Accountable co-founder and CEO Matthew Serel. He previously bootstrapped business ventures in their earliest days. The investment will help alleviate an acute challenge for bootstrapped businesses. Also, it helps bring an old friend into the business.
“When you bootstrap, everyone wears multiple hats,” Serel told ATB. “The first thing I did was hire my old business partner (Adam Milewski) as our chief operations officer … and I was the only engineer, so I hired an engineer so I can take that hat off a bit.”
Serel and Milewski founded a software company when they were 16 years old. Milewski also worked with Serel at Therapy Brands, the company that acquired his previous venture, AccuPoint LLC, in 2017.
Previous colleagues at Therapy Brands also invested in the round, Serel said.
On top of adding key employees, You Are Accountable will continue to professionalize the organization and automate certain processes to enable it to increase the scale of its work. Professionalizing the organization includes back-office tech functions such as passing a customer data security audit.
Most of the early-stage investment ATB tracks is for the treatment of behavioral health conditions such as SUD. Serel said services such as You Are Accountable are “out of style” when compared to investing in treatment.
“[GEHA Ventures] has a deep understanding that treatment for addiction is obviously important, but just the first step and not the endgame,” Serel said. “And they saw the value in what we do and where we live, which is the maintenance stage of change, which is keeping people healthy and stable like post-treatment.”
Insurance companies often seek services for physical health care that reduce hospital readmissions or other re-treatments of the same condition as a cost savings for the plan. Tools such as You Are Accountable seek to prevent readmission for addiction treatment, something Serel contends health plans will find and eventually prove to be valuable efforts.
Contingency management tools, such as those provided by You Are Accountable, are one of a very small handful of validated interventions for stimulant use disorder. The company’s interventions are “substance agnostic,” Serel said.
Federal research finds contingency management has the strongest evidence base and is most effective for treating stimulant use disorder. Also, no FDA-cleared drugs treat stimulant use disorder as a primary indication.
Serel also pointed out the human impact of contingency management, a non-formalized intervention meant to reinforce participation in recovery efforts.
“We also have to remember that the goal isn’t just to prevent overdoses and prevent people from dying,” Serel said. “The question is, what do we do afterward to sustain recovery?”