Mobihealth News: Addiction recovery startup Workit Health raises $1.1M to expand digital counseling program

Oakland, California-based Workit Health, which offers a digital counseling program for substance abuse, raised $1.1M in seed funding in a round led by Montage Ventures and Lux Capital. The company will use the funds to expand its current offerings, hiring addiction counselors, software engineers and sales representatives so it can establish partnerships and prepare for a direct to consumer launch later this year.

The company’s first product is a 90-day digital program, available via personal computer or tablet, that pairs one-on-one support from a network of certified counselors with interactive, customized digital content. Workit is currently offering it to employers, providers and health plans. The startup is currently participating in the Healthbox Studios accelerator cohort in Los Angeles.

Workit's platform is not a replacement for traditional recovery counseling, but a means to bundle up evidenced-based practices in a new package that is tailored to each participant’s needs. One doesn’t even need to have an outright goal of completely quitting a substance. For example, they may want to use Workit in order to get back on track with a personal project that has suffered due to substance use, while still using drugs and alcohol.

“We’re not an on-the-wagon, off-the-wagon platform,” Workit cofounder Lisa McLaughlin told MobiHealthNews. “We focus on harm reduction and prevention, and that might not necessarily mean just dealing with one substance. It could be a mix of things, it could be something like an eating disorder on top of it, and we want participants to be able to adapt the program to their needs.”

The curriculum adapts to each participant's evolving needs and feedback by using evidence-based therapies for addiction, including motivational interviewing, relapse prevention therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and brief interventions. Other mental health practices are also incorporated according to each user, aided by the use of machine learning algorithms.

Currently, Workit has a few partnerships with employers and institutional providers, including Priority Health and Beaumont Health, and is collaborating with researchers at the University of Michigan’s School of Social Work as well as the university’s depression center.

The company has 200 counselors and support staff in the network, as well as many community partnerships, and is rolling out services in states where telemedicine laws are progressive, social work is robust and clinical partners are in abundance, such as McLaughlin’s alma mater in Michigan.

To expand, McLaughlin said Workit is reaching out to specific industries that have a high risk for substance use, such as manufacturing and hospitality, as well as those that carry a high stigma for substance use – like healthcare – since that may bar people from seeking help.

“We want to open up the platform for individuals who people who can pay out of pocket, who know the treatment landscape and want customized support,” said McLaughlin, who said some people actually don’t seek treatment at all because of the rigid guidelines of other programs. “This is something that is accessible to them 24/7, and they are paired with a counselor perfectly matched to their goals.”
 
McLaughlin founded Workit with Robin McIntosh, and both are longtime members of the recovery community.

“Robin and I have thrived in recovery and had amazing access, but not everyone has that experience,” she said. “A lot of people are still dying. We started this company because of the all the laws and barriers to support. This means we’ve lost a lot of people. We’ve watched how people can get so disconnected that recovery programs can’t help them.”

Oakland, California-based Workit Health, which offers a digital counseling program for substance abuse, raised $1.1M in seed funding in a round led by Montage Ventures and Lux Capital. The company will use the funds to expand its current offerings, hiring addiction counselors, software engineers and sales representatives so it can establish partnerships and prepare for a direct to consumer launch later this year. The company’s first product is a 90-day digital program, available via personal computer or tablet, that pairs one-on-one support from a network of certified counselors with interactive, customized digital content. Workit is currently offering it to employers, providers and health plans. The startup is currently participating in the Healthbox Studios accelerator cohort in Los Angeles. Workit's platform is not a replacement for traditional recovery counseling, but a means to bundle up evidenced-based practices in a new package that is tailored to each participant’s needs. One doesn’t even need to have an outright goal of completely quitting a substance. For example, they may want to use Workit in order to get back on track with a personal project that has suffered due to substance use, while still using drugs and alcohol. “We’re not an on-the-wagon, off-the-wagon platform,” Workit cofounder Lisa McLaughlin told MobiHealthNews. “We focus on harm reduction and prevention, and that might not necessarily mean just dealing with one substance. It could be a mix of things, it could be something like an eating disorder on top of it, and we want participants to be able to adapt the program to their needs.” The curriculum adapts to each participant's evolving needs and feedback by using evidence-based therapies for addiction, including motivational interviewing, relapse prevention therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and brief interventions. Other mental health practices are also incorporated according to each user, aided by the use of machine learning algorithms. Currently, Workit has a few partnerships with employers and institutional providers, including Priority Health and Beaumont Health, and is collaborating with researchers at the University of Michigan’s School of Social Work as well as the university’s depression center. The company has 200 counselors and support staff in the network, as well as many community partnerships, and is rolling out services in states where telemedicine laws are progressive, social work is robust and clinical partners are in abundance, such as McLaughlin’s alma mater in Michigan. To expand, McLaughlin said Workit is reaching out to specific industries that have a high risk for substance use, such as manufacturing and hospitality, as well as those that carry a high stigma for substance use – like healthcare – since that may bar people from seeking help. “We want to open up the platform for individuals who people who can pay out of pocket, who know the treatment landscape and want customized support,” said McLaughlin, who said some people actually don’t seek treatment at all because of the rigid guidelines of other programs. “This is something that is accessible to them 24/7, and they are paired with a counselor perfectly matched to their goals.”   McLaughlin founded Workit with Robin McIntosh, and both are longtime members of the recovery community. “Robin and I have thrived in recovery and had amazing access, but not everyone has that experience,” she said. “A lot of people are still dying. We started this company because of the all the laws and barriers to support. This means we’ve lost a lot of people. We’ve watched how people can get so disconnected that recovery programs can’t help them.”