5 Key Criteria to Consider When Choosing a Mental Health Benefit

Feb 23, 2021

By The Lyra Team

In the midst of an ongoing pandemic and political turmoil, the need for better mental health resources is clearer than ever. Recent research indicates that stress, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and other challenges were all surging even before the events of 2020, which means that now more than ever, employers need mental health strategies that are not only available, but also make a significant difference.

While the surge in crises has been stressful, it has also contributed to the proliferation of employee mental health solutions, creating a breadth of choices for Human Resources (HR) departments. Here are five key factors to look for when considering a new mental health benefit for your workforce.

1. Easily accessible, high-quality provider care network

Mental health outcomes rely heavily on the quality of care providers, which it’s crucial that benefits programs thoroughly vet the  providers in their network. At Lyra, we contract directly with our more than 4,500 providers, unlike other services that contract their providers through third parties, making it difficult to control for quality, track clinical outcomes, or vet providers for use of evidence-based therapies.

Another important consideration: high-quality providers can’t be effective if they’re not available. With Lyra, members get real-time data on which providers have availability and when, to shorten wait times significantly. In over 90% of cases, employees can instantly schedule their first appointment—often for the next day. On average, it’s just five days from signup to an initial visit. Employees can choose from both in-person and virtual care options based on their preferences and schedule, and geography is a minimal consideration: About 97 percent of members can see in-person providers within 20 miles of their location.

It’s also essential to ensure that members are matched with the right provider for their needs, to minimize the kind of “provider shopping” that can get frustrating, especially if someone is experiencing a mental health struggle. With a five-minute assessment, Lyra can determine an employee’s needs and find the provider who will be best suited to meet those care requirements. Other mental health vendors also offer assessments, but require employees to go through a middleman by phone, causing needless delays to care, and another barrier to access.

2. Comprehensive care

In mental health care, making a range of options available helps tailor treatment and support to individuals and their families. This is why Lyra supports not only employees but also their dependents, including children under 13. It’s also why we offer a variety of care and support types, such as Guided Self-Care, mental health coaching, and mental wellness tools in addition to therapy and medication management.

Over 2,000 providers in our network specialize in supporting children and adolescents, and with recently added features in our digital platform, Lyra has improved access to care for people of color and other underserved communities through its provider network and technological product. About 40 percent of our providers identify as people of color.

3. An emphasis on preventative care

As with physical health care, prevention is key to mental health, and any mental health care benefit you consider should offer preventative care options. Tools like meditation have been shown to help manage mental health, particularly stress. Lyra, for example, offers a partnership with Calm, a mental fitness and resilience app, to combat stress and burnout in the workplace through the use of a guided mindfulness meditation tool.  And our Guided Self-Care program  is designed to help members find new, sustainable, healthy habits to bolster their emotional well-being and offset the effects of stress.

These programs teach participants to become aware of their emotions and tune into their mental well-being so they can identify issues like stress and burnout and tend to them before they become more serious mental health issues.

4. Measurable clinical outcomes

With traditional Employee Assistance Programs, or EAPs, research shows that less than 2 percent  of employees seek care and just 18 percent see reliable clinical improvement—and most outcomes aren’t measured at all. Furthermore, a study revealed that on average, people with certain mental health issues need at least eight to 16 sessions to see a real reduction in their mental health symptoms. Many mental health benefits vendors too-low offer session limits—as few as two to six per employee—making it difficult for the employee to complete evidence-based treatment protocols that lead to recovery.

With a high-quality mental health benefit, providers use evidence-based approaches and strategies, backed by clinical research, and don’t cut treatment sessions short before real progress can be made. At Lyra,  83 percent of members in care show clinical improvement or recovery, and95 percent of those in the mental health coaching program show improved well-being based on validated third-party assessments. When selecting a mental health solution, you’ll want to ensure that it includes access to high-level, anonymized and aggregated data that clearly shows the impact of the care members receive.

5. Transparent pricing and utilization

Traditional mental health benefits typically use a fixed-fee model, which charges a flat rate regardless of how many members engage in care. As a result, this encourages companies to offer less care and use lower-quality providers to make a larger profit.

With utilization-based pricing, employers pay when members get care, ultimately lowering costs overall. When members receive high-quality mental health care, they are less likely to need the type of costly outpatient and inpatient care that drives up mental health claims.

There’s also a ripple effect that can lead to higher productivity, reduced absenteeism, and better health habits—which all reduce healthcare costs. This case study on an aerospace company, for example, shows how switching to a high-quality mental health vendor saved the firm 39 percent on care costs and offered fast access to care for its entire workforce.

As workforce mental health continues to be a must-have for employers across industries, more benefits options  will likely enter the field, making it even more challenging for HR teams to narrow down the choices. When selecting a mental health benefits provider, make sure to consider  experience, evidence-based care, and a breadth of resources for a wide range of mental health needs.

Want to learn more about what your mental health strategy should include in 2021? ATTEND OUR WEBINAR


If you’d like help connecting with a therapist or mental health coach, Lyra can assist you. You can get started today if Lyra is offered by your employer. Sign up now.

If you’re a mental health professional and want to explore joining the Lyra network, learn more about how we work with providers and apply today.

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The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.