I spent the majority of my career in the college mental health space as the Director of Counseling and Psychological Health at UMass Amherst in Massachusetts. As with most counseling centers in higher education settings, UMass Amherst struggled with the flow of getting each student the mental health care they need. Each year, utilization rates would rise and outstrip on-campus resources. Like many other campuses, we were additionally bound to providing care only during the active academic calendar, which means students who seek care were often confronted with a several month disruption in treatment as they move off campus to their respective homes for breaks.
Knowing that it is incumbent upon us as campus leaders to use clinically based decision making, I searched for any and all efficiencies that will not compromise our clinical standards. For example, referrals to the community are an integral component of any comprehensive stepped care plan, however, when coordination or communication with the campus based center is clinically indicated such community referrals can fall short in the context of busy schedules or privacy laws. Operational barriers aside, referrals to psychiatric services pose particular challenges given the sparsity of psychiatric providers in so many areas of the country.
As I approached retirement, I often reflected on these systemic problems and knew I still wanted to make an impact on this continued problem in the field. I had intended to slow down, develop a part-time consulting practice, and engage in a small clinical practice focusing on college and university students, all of which I’ve been fortunately and gratefully able to achieve. Joining an entrepreneurial start-up was completely out of my radar for my “lower key” retirement plan, despite being regularly approached throughout my career by telemental health vendors wanting to offer a variation of some solution that addresses the challenges inherent to providing mental health services in large residential communities. I was not interested in working with a technology group, especially when there are so many that exist in the market today opting to solve the same problems - how does one truly distinguish one company from another? It felt risky at this point in my career.
When I was approached by the co-founders of Mantra Health, I was quickly intrigued by their unique system - knowing that this was a niche product unlike what I’ve seen before. I was immediately taken by the way in which this team understood it’s clients’ challenges and capitalized on their ability to address them. This was a team that truly understood the power of using technology to promote care quality, without neglecting the interpersonal importance of connecting patients and providers, and instead, finding ways to augment this care interaction. Despite this being a new chapter in my professional life with various other plans for how I was going to spend it, I knew that I had to somehow collaborate with this visionary team.
Mantra’s team is made up of a unique blend of individuals with clinical expertise to understand the challenges and potential solutions in the mental health care space, but also with impressive technology operators who have contributed to building market defining solutions. The end result of this structure offers a fresh take on using technology to increase access to needed long term therapy or psychiatric care by focusing on the importance of interdisciplinary team communication and collaboration, which as mentioned above, is one of the biggest challenges in the field. Understanding the importance of close collaboration with the counseling center is the foundation of Mantra’s software, an intuitive tool that allows counseling centers to have real-time, bidirectional input into the care of the student. Mantra also expertly finds a way to identify and address each clients’ pain points and propose a flexible solution that helps higher education institutions achieve their overall academic and student success goals, including ensuring that patients are never left without mental care options, regardless of which academic calendar their school’s services are bound.
Currently as a Clinical Advisor for Mantra, I am able to take the decades of experience working in a higher education counseling center setting and modernize that knowledge to address the needs of students today. This role gives me an opportunity to weigh in on these important issues in a substantive manner throughout each stage of Mantra’s development and expansion as a start-up company. I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this new wave of care delivery, especially in this dire time prompted by COVID-19. Mantra’s solution not only solves a need with the pandemic today, but offers a solution for challenges faced in the field for decades making it both timely and timeless.