Latest developments in causes and treatments



A Revolution in Treatment for Substance Use Disorders

Fail Fast” is one mantra in Silicon Valley, where the faster you go down in a blaze of glory trying to solve a pressing need, the faster you can reinvent yourself and have an even more spectacular failure on your way to unimaginable success. It’s a tough love formula but it appears to be working to build a new network of telehealth addiction treatment startups that have become Silicon Valley darlings.

Two months ago, we wrote about the virtual clinic Pelago, which closed on an additional $58 million in private investment to expand its substance use disorder program delivered via a smartphone application. Two weeks ago, we wrote about Boulder Care, which nailed down an additional $35 million in startup funding to expand its telehealth addiction treatment program into more rural communities.

Also getting major support is Nashville-based Wayspring, which recently announced a funding relationship with CVS Health Ventures. Wayspring is using the funding to broaden the reach of its substance use disorder telehealth program called SUD Home.

With SUD Home, patients are assigned to a team of wellness providers. First and foremost are healthcare professionals who can make assessments and prescribe pharmaceutical interventions. Behavioral specialists also provide individual and group therapy delivered remotely. Wayspring also connects patients with community resources including housing, job training, and medical care providers. Wayspring says their program is based on the “social determinants of health” or SDOH.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines the social determinants of health as…

[T]he non-medical factors that influence health outcomes. They are the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life.

SDOH enhances healthcare with a 360-degree view of the individual patient and their circumstances. This includes consideration of such things as mental health, housing needs, educational level and goals, employment history, history with law enforcement, food security, assistance with getting benefits, and assistance with getting medical treatment. WHO claims that 30-55% of health outcomes are due to SDOH rather than prescriptions or medical care.

Pelago, Boulder Care and Wayspring are three examples of how the startup ethic of continuous improvement is perfecting addiction treatment while driving down costs. They are among the leaders of more than a dozen addiction treatment telehealth startups tracked by Crunchbase. Whoever gets the right combination of individualized support, group support, pharmaceutical intervention, therapy, and SDOH enhancement that leads to more people staying in treatment, completing treatment, and reporting positive life outcomes could quickly balloon to a billion-dollar valuation.

One thing all telehealth providers have proven is that recovery cannot be achieved with drugs alone. Behavioral therapy is essential to equipping patients with the skills needed to resist urges and avoid relapse. Beyond individual and group therapy, it is essential to consider the whole person and to provide support with housing, education, employment, medical care, and individual life situations that complicate recovery.

Congratulations to all the companies that are perfecting addiction treatment using an app and a dedicated support team!

Written by Steve O’Keefe. First published June 05, 2024.


“Virtual Care Drives Rise In Addiction Treatment Startup Funding,” Crunchbase News, May 29, 2024.

“Social determinants of health,” World Health Organization, retrieved June 3, 2024.

“Fail Fast: How to Learn from Different Types of Failure,” LinkedIn, January 10, 2024.

Image Copyright: lenetstan.


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