For Amanda D’Ambra and Joan Zhang, the idea of launching and co-founding an eating disorder care start-up was personal: both were struggling with an eating disorder, as well as other mental health issues, and were receiving treatment – treatment they hoped more people would receive. be able to access.
D’Ambra and Zhang previously worked in digital health spaces before deciding to found Arise, a New York-based virtual care company for eating disorders. Arise seeks to provide education, care, and long-term support for people with eating disorders with a personalized care plan with licensed providers.
The one thing the founders would have liked to see more of in other companies was to “see people as humans first and support them in whatever they prioritize in life.”
Based on their personal experience, Zhang and D’Ambra say that other mental health factors impact a patient’s journey, which is why they try to personalize patient care.
“There’s so much complexity in what contributed to the eating disorder, and it’s just not just the food, and it’s not just the body,” Zhang said. “I think the other really important thing is starting to move away from ‘Oh, it’s a need issue,’ to see the larger systemic issue and how it contributes to this culture of eating disorders and eating disorders that was created.”
According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Related Disorders, eating disorders are the second deadliest mental illness (after opioid use) and 26% of people with an eating disorder diet are trying to commit suicide.
Additionally, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) are “significantly” less likely to receive treatment than white people, and nearly 50% of LGBTQIA+ people reported disordered eating behaviors.
For D’Ambra and Zhang, they said they hope Arise can be a welcoming, safe, and open space for underserved populations by being “community-focused.”
“What we’re aiming to build is a more accessible and inclusive model that will serve a much larger pool of people who really do have eating disorders and eating disorders, but who aren’t recognized or don’t receive of support,” D’Ambra said.
Arise was able to garner support by announcing an oversubscribed $4 million seed funding led by BBG Ventures (investments in Alula and Reside Health) and Greycroft (investments in Bumble and Boulder Care) with participation from Iyah Romm, co-founder of Cityblock and President of Sonder Health, Sylvia Romm.
The company is expected to launch its pilot program later this summer – however, the pilot will only serve up to 30 patients. According to the company, the pilot is likely to be “a short-term thing.”
After the beta trial, Arise hopes to serve about 100 active patients by the end of the year. Initially, the company will start operations in New York, North Carolina and potentially Texas. However, since the company plans to partner with insurers and Medicaid, it all depends on where they can break in.
The company emerges at a time when mental health and digital businesses have experienced a loss of staff and support.
Cerebral lost various insurance contracts after the FDA opened an investigation for a potential violation of the Controlled Substances Act. Additionally, Talkspace and BetterHelp have been in the spotlight as the US Senate reviews potential privacy rights violations.
The Senate is asking these mental health app providers to provide clarity on their data collection and sharing policies after reports suggested the companies may be sharing data with Meta and Google.
“When it comes to mental health in particular, we take member data very seriously and strongly believe in ensuring privacy is respected and protected,” D’Ambra told TechCrunch. “For us, this is part of our approach to care, in that we bring it directly to people’s homes. Crucially, it also means ensuring that data is protected and put into the hands of our members to support their healing, and not sold to third parties for advertising or profit.
Typically, third-party digital health companies fall outside the purview of HIPAA — despite handling sensitive patient information — and land in regulatory gray space. It wasn’t until September 2021 that the Federal Trade Commission issued a policy stating that health apps must comply with the Health Breach Notification Rule.