Launches pediatric mental health company with $26 million and promise to expand Mass General’s proven model of care

From left to right: InStride co-founders Jon Voight, Dr. Mona Potter, Jamie McElhenney, and Dr. Kathryn Boger

Many families with children suffering from anxiety or OCD feel like they have nowhere to turn for effective care. New startup co-founded by Massachusetts General Brigham clinicians strive to address this issue.

Last year, four co-founders came together to create InStride Health, a virtual care provider for pediatric patients with moderate to severe anxiety and OCD. The company announced its official launch this week, as well as investments totaling $26 million from Mass General Brigham Ventures, .406 Enterprises and Valtruis.

InStride’s clinical co-founders, Dr. Mona Potter and Dr. Kathryn Boger, work at McLean Hospitala Harvard Medical School affiliate and mental hospital owned by Massachusetts General Brigham. They developed jointly McLean Anxiety Management Program (MAMP), a proven treatment approach for children and adolescents struggling with anxiety and OCD. The two have published peer-reviewed research demonstrating the efficacy of the model.

The program provides treatment primarily in a group format to enhance patient motivation and learning through social interaction and observation. Clinicians customize treatment plans for each child, taking into account things like culture, family environment, and medical history. The success of MAMP is at the heart of the InStride model of care.

Drs. Potter and Boger co-founded InStride with Jamie McElheny, former chief technology officer at Iora healthand John Voight, who previously founded dental startup Virtudent and held leadership positions at athinahealth. With its platform, InStride aims to scale McLean’s proven model of care so that it is more accessible to families, said Foyt, who is InStride’s CEO.

“There is a shortage of providers who provide evidence-based care, take insurance and have experience seeing children with moderate to severe anxiety and OCD,” he said in an interview. “There are long waiting lists, and when providers do come along, they tend to be self-pay oriented. This is very expensive for families.

This problem means that the children’s condition eventually worsens, leading to “escalations that are even more problematic for the family and the entire healthcare system – just expensive for everyone involved, as well as potentially really traumatic for the child,” according to Voith . He pointed out that while there are providers across the country with proven models of care — mainly at academic medical centers — it’s impossible to find those models at scale in a way that’s affordable for patients and their families.

InStride is building its team of clinicians and currently accepting patients in Massachusetts, with plans to expand nationally. The startup already has a number of Massachusetts payers in its network, including Massachusetts Blue Cross, A Harvard devotee and Always health.

Families have the option of coming to the platform themselves, but most of the startup’s users have been referred by doctors, according to Voith. He said InStride returns to families within 48 hours of completing their initial application, “a very quick turnaround compared to the market standard.

InStride has shared data from its first cohorts of patients, which it plans to post on its website in the coming weeks. It showed that mean patient-reported anxiety symptoms measured by GAD7dropped by 48% after eight to 12 weeks of treatment, meaning the children’s anxiety severity decreased on average from moderate to mild.

But InStride isn’t the only mental health startup geared toward pediatric patients—there’s this one, too Brightyne and Hello Hazel. The fact that InStride uses a proven model of care sets it apart, according to Roger Kitterman, managing director at Mass General Brigham Ventures. Drs. Potter and Boger published peer-reviewed research in 2016 and 2020.

A 2016 study found that an intensive group cognitive-behavioral therapy program can significantly improve a child’s anxiety or OCD symptoms, especially if the programs focus on exposure and response prevention. In 2020, clinicians proved that such a program can also facilitate the child’s return to everyday life.

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