Ophelia Health: Fighting the Opioid Epidemic by Making the Best Care Accessible
Like COVID, opioid use disorder (OUD) is an epidemic that will define our generation. Roughly 90 million Americans use opioids and over 10 million misuse them. The epidemic kills nearly 50,000 Americans annually, making it the #1 cause of death for Americans under the age of 50. And the stresses of COVID have only made things worse: overdoses grew by over 25% in 2020.
Effective treatments for opioid addiction exist: medication-assisted treatments (MAT), which combine medications like buprenorphine with behavioral counseling, have been proven to reduce opioid use, overdose deaths, criminal activity, and infectious disease transmission. The U.S. Surgeon General’s report calls MAT “the gold standard.” The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine recently published a consensus report entitled simply, “Medications for OUD Save Lives.” Expanding access to MAT is one of very few policy priorities shared by Presidents Obama, Trump, and Biden.
However, MAT remains unavailable to many in need due to a variety of reasons including cost, stigma, and lack of access. Today, only 20% of those struggling with OUD receive addiction treatment and then only 1 in 3 of patients being treated receive MAT. Access to best-in-class treatments is poor overall, but it is even more inequitable across racial and economic divides. Only 5% of U.S. clinicians are licensed (called an x-waiver) to prescribe MAT, and 40% of all counties in the U.S. do not have even one clinician who can prescribe MAT.
Enter Ophelia Health.
Ophelia is fighting the opioid epidemic by reinventing addiction treatment and dramatically improving access to best-in-class MAT. Ophelia has developed a vertically integrated, full stack clinical care model that combines the effectiveness of MAT and the convenience of telemedicine to provide a patient experience that is head and shoulders above traditional rehab. Patients do not have to drive an hour to the next county to find a clinician and can receive treatment in the privacy of their homes.
Ophelia’s platform is also great for clinicians. Only half of clinicians with an x-waiver are currently prescribing MAT, mainly because their primary employers don’t treat addiction. Unlike most providers, Ophelia offers clinicians the opportunity to work part-time, matching rare resources with people in need.
During our journey toward investment, we evaluated multiple traditional and emerging solutions for addiction treatment. While we wish success for every solution in this category given the importance of the work, we were drawn to Ophelia because we believe they will best scale to the tremendous need, based on the combination of clinical outcomes, cost-effectiveness, model scalability, and ability to serve the broadest possible population.
Ophelia’s team also stood out. CEO Zack Gray and COO Mattan Griffel combine tremendous passion for mission with strong business and product backgrounds. And they are building a strong and experienced team, including leaders in the field like medical directors Dr. Adam Bisaga, who co-directs PCSS, the national clinician training program for OUD treatment, and Dr. Arthur R. Williams, who develops OUD treatment protocols for NIH, and payor strategist Dr. Darshak Sanghavi, who was formerly Chief Medical Officer for United Healthcare and Optum Labs and previously Director of Prevention and Population Health for CMS (US Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services).
Finally, Ophelia aligns with one of our broader theses in digital health: the growth of vertically-integrated clinical providers serving patient groups with significant medical needs who can get paid both under today’s fee-for-service realities and tomorrow’s value-based care future. We continue to seek out investments like Ophelia and another of our recent investments, Riva, which is attacking hypertension, who can provide superior (and reimbursed) digital patient experiences and outcomes at scale.
We’re thrilled to be leading Ophelia’s Series A to fuel their expansion across the country and with payors including Medicaid in order to blunt the opioid epidemic and bring access to best-in-class care to underserved populations.