At Lyra Health, we’re passionate about ensuring access to mental health care for those who need it. That includes looking for gaps in mental health care and figuring out how to fill them. This desire inspired our newest initiative, one that I am passionate about based on my own experiences as a therapist: the Enhanced Access program.
Enhanced Access provides seed money and mentoring opportunities for mental health providers who want to start their own independent practice. The program’s goal is to increase the number of on-site mental health practices available to the public.
Considering that Lyra is a virtual care company, why do we have an interest in funding new brick-and-mortar practices?
Simply put, we recognize that local, physical practices are critical to the health of a community—and that there aren’t enough of them in some regions. The number of clients post-pandemic who want to see providers in person is growing, and many underserved populations are in need of local referral options.
But launching a new mental health practice is difficult and expensive, especially for younger therapists. For too many talented providers, the challenges outweigh the benefits, and they join an existing practice instead of creating their own.
How do I know? When I started my own practice in 2017, I came up against stiff financial demands. The space I wanted to rent, which cost just $600 per month, required a whopping $2,500 down payment. As a new therapist, I’d have to furnish everything the office needed, be that waiting room chairs, bookshelves, desks, or tables. That’s to say nothing of purchasing an EHR (Electronic Human Resources) software to actually manage the day-to-day business.
I was lucky. A loved one gave me a loan to start my practice, and that generous investment got me through the lean early months of establishing something new. But not everyone has family members and friends waiting in the wings with money. These financial issues are why so many therapists postpone or abandon the idea of starting a practice and why some regions lack enough mental health treatment centers to meet demand.
Enhanced Access covers the startup expenses for providers who want to start their own practice but lack the means. Our program covers the heavy-hitting items like EHRs, furniture, rent, and more.
The initial round of Enhanced Access funding will help ten new practices open their doors in 2022.
The challenges of practice startup can be particularly daunting for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) mental health providers, who are statistically more likely to be at a financial disadvantage compared to white peers.
This is one of the many reasons why there aren’t enough BIPOC mental health providers to meet the demands of our country’s diverse population. Unfortunately, this often means that people of color who need mental health treatment decide to do without rather than see a therapist who isn’t of their racial or ethnic background.
BIPOC practitioners are among the provider demographics that our Enhanced Access program is eager to promote, and they represent a large portion of the providers supported in our first round of funding.
We also chose to focus this round on California-based providers, with an eye to helping therapists who specialize in specific demographics, such as child therapy, couples’ counseling, LGBTQ counseling, and more. We were able to select a wide variety of specialists who will be able to address specific needs within their communities.
Money isn’t the only thing fledgling practices need. New mental health providers also need access to a wealth of practice management information that they don’t teach in mental health degree programs. This includes business management strategies, financial best practices, state-specific rules and regulations for providers, and more.
I had nothing but that loan to support me when I started out in private practice– I didn’t know much about California’s specific legal requirements for therapists. I muddled through those early years somehow, getting tips from other therapists and passing them along to fellow newbies.
We want Lyra’s Enhanced Access practitioners to have a smoother introduction to the world of private practice. These practitioners will have access to mentorship from experienced providers, and other professionals like CPAs. With this guidance, they will gain the management and financial skills needed for a flourishing practice.
All practices selected for funding also become part of Lyra’s Enhanced Access Network, which means they’ll receive referrals through Lyra as well as local sources in their communities. This will help build their client rosters quickly for the best chance at success. Lyra Health is committed to ensuring all Enhanced Access Network partners receive a fair market rate for their work, because we want their work to be sustainable long-term.
Lyra Health could not be more excited for the launch of these first ten Enhanced Access practices! Two have already secured physical office space, with the others shortly to follow. We hope this program will begin a trend of more mental health treatment locations in the California region and, eventually, nationwide.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Briahn Badelle is a licensed clinical social worker with over ten years of experience working with adolescents and adults in the Bay Area. An Oakland native, Briahn has worked as a trauma medical social worker at a local county trauma center as well as at other Bay area hospitals and has also worked at various nonprofits and schools in the Bay Area. To address the need for therapists from traditionally oppressed communities, Briahn opened her private practice, a multi-cultural, multi-lingual, LGBTQ+ affirming therapy practice in Oakland in 2017. She now works with Lyra as a manager in provider network development where she focuses on recruiting BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, differently abled and specialty providers.