Most therapists across the US cost between $112 and $157 per session. For cities like New York, the cost is upwards of $250.
Samata Health Founder and CEO Elizabeth Henderson works with therapists to cut this cost in half. The platform—which officially launched this March—provides New Yorkers with diverse and affordable therapy options, both in-person and remote.
The problem with insurance
“When I moved to New York, I had not been able to find a therapist who took my insurance to save my life. I learned through this experience that it’s a huge challenge in the whole country, especially in New York, that only half of mental health providers accept insurance.”
Although both the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 and the Affordable Care Act of 2010 expanded insurance coverage over mental health problems, patient advocates note that claims are often outmaneuvered by insurance companies through selective standards of necessity.
The lack of access shows. Based on 2017 statistics provided by the National Institute of Mental Health, of those diagnosed with a mental illness, less than half received mental health services. According to the NY Office of Mental Health, more than 1 in every 5 New Yorkers shows symptoms for mental health problems.
Finding the right provider is hard. Samata Health works with patients, therapists, and employers to simplify the process.
Therapy during COVID-19
Merely a few weeks after Samata’s launch, NY was on house arrest: the NY on Pause order released March 22 required the closure of all non-essential businesses and asked all non-essential citizens to remain indoors and abide by social distancing regulations.
Across the nation, people were in a state of panic. Calls to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Disaster Distress Hotline jumped by over 800% in comparison to March of last year, and the UN warns the pandemic could be the start of a worldwide mental health crisis.
Samata offered a 50 percent discount that ended a few weeks ago in response to the climbing anxiety. Although the discount ended, Henderson’s goal is to continue providing New York with the care it needs.
“We’re still a small self funded team, so the 50% off discount wasn’t something we were able to continue on a sustained basis. But we think we were able to really help people have an access point to therapy during that time and sort of get some support during the very most critical point of the crisis.”
Diversity is key
In 2015, SAMHSA released a study that showed only seven to eight percent of Hispanics and black adults utilized mental health services, less than half in comparison to whites, American Indian, Alaska Native, and those reporting two or more races (15 to 17 percent). Asian adults had the lowest turnout with less than five percent reporting use of services.
New York is diverse. A little over half the state’s population identifies as a race other than white, a quarter of which is black or African American. Samata’s site offers the option to specify ethnicity, race, and religious background. Henderson believes this could help NY access a more personalized experience in therapy.
“A lot of research shows that it can be really hard for people of color or a certain religious background to find a therapist who understands their cultural needs…and the therapeutic relationship for many people can be much more effective if you have that common baseline. We made sure to have a really representative and diverse team of therapists and you can book sessions right on the platform.”