In 2021, health care professionals declared a national emergency in child mental health, pleading with policy makers and regulators to increase support system capacity. Of the 1 in 5 U.S. children who have a mental, emotional or behavior disorder in a given year, only 20% receive treatment. High costs, lack of insurance coverage, and the time and effort involved coordinating care make it harder for parents to get the mental health support their child needs.
As with many social policy challenges, schools often bear the brunt of the pain. In the absence of more dynamic funding formulas and the resources to consistently attract specialized staff, the mental health crisis has placed an exorbitant tax on the already challenging climate teachers and administrators face every day. An impending federal funding cliff will only exacerbate these shortfalls.
Reach has spent years evaluating and classifying tools within the multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) schools often use to match students with the appropriate intervention. Research indicates that this developmental period is critical for social and occupational adjustment, and we are proud to have invested in companies like Clayful and Rhithm (acquired by Securly) that are covering both Tier 1 and Tier 2 capabilities.
Today, we could not be happier to announce our latest investment in this critically important category. Along with our friends at Menlo Ventures, we are delighted to co-lead the Series A for Cartwheel, founded by Joe English and Daniel Tartakovsky.
Cartwheel functions as an outpatient mental health partner to school districts, offering rapid access to mental health assessments, evidence-based therapy for individuals, families and groups, and medication evaluation, entirely via telehealth with licensed clinicians. The strategic composition of Cartwheel’s care team, led by child psychiatrist Dr. Juliana Chen, enables the platform to provide services to over 90% of referred cases and within seven days, a remarkable capability that amplifies its value as a timely and accessible mental health solution for schools. Relieved of extended waitlists, districts can deliver critical intervention while parents lean on Cartwheel’s platform to coordinate long term care with community-based providers.
At Reach, we know that schools act as centralized hubs in the community. Interventions like behavioral health services have a much better chance of success in school settings, where companies can leverage existing infrastructure for outreach, data collection, and ongoing support. Moreover, they allow all students regardless of socioeconomic backgrounds to receive access to care they need. What we loved about Cartwheel was that they view themselves less as an outsourced service provider and more as a true mental health partner for school districts, working closely with district leaders to think through how best to support their student population. Their staff purposely includes individuals with both clinical and school experiences in order to co-create a set of services that will lead to better outcomes for students.
The regulatory complexity associated with a business that engages so deeply in both education and healthcare requires unique founders – those willing to build creative new business models so payers and community providers can play a more integrated role in how we invest in adolescent healthcare. Joe and Daniel represent exceptional and complementary experience in this regard. Joe started his career at McKinsey, with a focus on K-12 before founding his own non-profit to provide rural school districts with training and content to build more inclusive communities. Daniel also spent time at McKinsey before joining the COVID response as part of the Biden-Harris team and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as a mental health policy advisor to the surgeon general.
Adolescent mental health has been called “the defining public health crisis of our time.” With our investment in Cartwheel, we take a meaningful step towards making mental health support more accessible and effective for kids and adolescents everywhere.