Virtual mental health provider Talkspace (Nasdaq: TALK) has inked a deal with digital addiction operator Bicycle Health to provide both companies’ patients with access to both therapy and opioid use disorder (OUD) treatment.
More than 21 million adults have both a mental illness and substance use disorder (SUD), according to the 2022 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. More than 80% of that population goes untreated for one or both conditions.
Through the new partnership, Bicycle and Talkspace clinicians will have the ability to refer patients to specialized care from either organization through a direct referral pathway.
“This collaboration between two of the nation’s leading virtual care providers means that access to high-quality OUD care and mental health care is exponentially improved,” Bicycle’s CEO, Ankit Gupta, told Addiction Treatment Business in an email.
Boston-based Bicycle provides medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) via telehealth, as well as therapy, customized treatment plans and peer support groups. The startup raised $50 million in a Series B funding round in 2022, bringing its total funding to $83 million.
Bicycle recently partnered with Albertsons Companies pharmacies to make buprenorphine extended-release injections available in 700 pharmacies across 17 states.
For New York City-based mental health provider Talkspace, the deal means that its patients have access to OUD-specific treatment, including MOUD and therapists and coaches who specialize in OUD.
“Adding OUD specialty care options through Bicycle Health is our way of addressing the growing opioid crisis and the interconnectedness of OUD and other mental health challenges,” Nikole Benders-Hadi, chief medical officer at Talkspace, told ATB in an email. “By partnering with Bicycle Health, we are expanding access to evidence-based treatment, including MOUD.”
Talkspace is known for its virtual, asynchronous therapy platform that includes the ability to text with a therapist. The company has said it is on track to meet its goal of becoming profitable by the end of Q1 2024. It recently announced that it will serve Medicare and Medicare Advantage members.
Nearly 645,000 people have died from an overdose involving an opioid from 1999 to 2021, according to the CDC. The number of opioid-involved deaths has significantly increased since the introduction of synthetic opioids like fentanyl.
The partnership follows a pair of deals between Talkspace and two public entities.
In December, Talkspace partnered with Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) to provide more than 32,000 students with access to free therapy.
A month prior, the company signed a deal with New York City to provide its teens access to the company’s therapists and intermittent check-ins.
Many of Bicycle’s patients struggle with depression, anxiety or another behavioral health condition in addition to addiction, Gupta told ATB.
People with SUD are more likely to develop other disorders or conditions, including anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder.
The partnership will provide Bicycle’s patients with access to therapies that are not OUD-specific, including marriage and family therapy, as well as asynchronous therapeutic chat.
“Our care model is comprehensive and while we offer MOUD, therapy and wraparound care, our clinical staff specializes in SUDs,” Gupta said. “Many of our patients need behavioral health support outside this area of expertise. For example, marriage and family therapy can be helpful for many, since nearly 80% of our patient population are parents.”
Patients stay in treatment longer when provided with wraparound support for their OUDs as well as with other challenges, Gupta said.
Both companies said the partnership was part of a whole-person approach to care.
“We know that medication management for opioid use disorder is more effective when therapy is also available in order to provide patients with a whole-person approach to support their recovery,” Benders-Hadi said.