Connected Nation

A technology-based model for mental health: How it's improving quality of care, expanding treatment options

March 13, 2024 Jessica Denson Season 5 Episode 8
A technology-based model for mental health: How it's improving quality of care, expanding treatment options
Connected Nation
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Connected Nation
A technology-based model for mental health: How it's improving quality of care, expanding treatment options
Mar 13, 2024 Season 5 Episode 8
Jessica Denson

In recognition of Women's History Month, we're putting a spotlight on women who are leaders in tech or leveraging technology in new ways.  

On this episode of Connected Nation, we're talking with the CEO and co-founder of Oria Health, Amanda Havard.  Learn how the company is addressing the critical need for more mental health practitioners in rural America; why its approach is both improving quality of care and expanding treatment options; AND where Oria Health recently expanded its services. 

Related links:
Oria Health -
Oria Health Instagram -
Oria Health Facebook -
Oria Health Linkedin -

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In recognition of Women's History Month, we're putting a spotlight on women who are leaders in tech or leveraging technology in new ways.  

On this episode of Connected Nation, we're talking with the CEO and co-founder of Oria Health, Amanda Havard.  Learn how the company is addressing the critical need for more mental health practitioners in rural America; why its approach is both improving quality of care and expanding treatment options; AND where Oria Health recently expanded its services. 

Related links:
Oria Health -
Oria Health Instagram -
Oria Health Facebook -
Oria Health Linkedin -

Jessica Denson (00:06):
This is Connected Nation, an award-winning podcast focused on all things broadband from closing the digital divide to improving your internet speeds. We talk technology topics that impact all of us, our families, and our neighborhoods. On today's podcast, we're focusing on women leaders in tech as part of recognizing Women's History Month. And in doing so, we're talking with the CEO and co-founder of Oriah Health. Amanda Haard, Oriah Health is working to address a critical need for mental health services in rural America, learn how the company is leveraging telehealth to reach more patients, how the approach is improving the quality of care and treatment options, and where it's recently expanded its services. I'm Jessica Sen and this is Connected Nation. I'm Jessica Sen, and today Amanda Haard, the CEO and co-founder of Oriah Health, a telehealth company based in Bowling Green, Kentucky is my guest. The company is focused on expanding access to mental health services. Welcome, Amanda.

Amanda Havard (01:09):
Hello there. Thanks for having me.

Jessica Denson (01:11):
I'm excited to talk to you. I'm based in Louisville, Kentucky and you're actually in Kentucky, Louisville today, right?

Amanda Havard (01:18):
I am. Just by happenstance, small world.

Jessica Denson (01:22):
Your company just won an award, is that right? You want to talk about that for a second?

Amanda Havard (01:26):
Yeah, we were really honored last night to be at Louisville Business First and KYNO, their startup scene. They recognized a handful of Kentucky startups to watch for 2024 and we were one of them, so very grateful.

Jessica Denson (01:40):
Congratulations, that's exciting. Before we get more in depth into Oriah Health, let's talk a little bit about your yourself and your background. The company was based in Dallas, Texas and now its headquarters are in Bowling Green, Kentucky. And you helped co-found the company. So what led you to that point where you were like, I really want to do this, I want to work in this space. Give us some of your background and what brought you to this moment in time?

Amanda Havard (02:12):
Yeah, sure. So I pretty much have been in startups my whole career and Oriah is actually the first company I've ever been a part of where the software product is not the actual product the company sells. So my very first company I started right out of grad school was in the EdTech and digital media space. And after that I went into the Medicaid space, which is how I got so interested in healthcare and health policy and even boring behind the scenes health it. And I had a enterprise SaaS startup then. And after that started doing a couple of things. My superpower, if you will, is sort of the zero to one idea to thing part of companies and launch and really get them kind of up and going with their own little identities and business models. And so in 2020 I was working with an old colleague of mine who had a really great idea around some family health management.

That company is called Kit and Kin, it's a running app right now. And she does a great job over there, great woman leader. And then later that year my mom got really sick, not with Covid despite the year and so sick that it became very clear I needed to drop what I was doing and take care of her. And so I needed all of the sudden a way to have a career and be by her bedside and take care of her 24 7. And so I sort of thought, hey, I'm pretty good at helping other startup founders with certain products and things like that. And along the way I got introduced to Dr. Richard Connell who's a psychologist in Texas who had the idea to build a net new mental health services company that was really based in trying to answer the question where does quality mental health care need to reach that it doesn't? And how do you leverage telehealth to take it there? And when we got connected, you're now almost 36 months to the day sitting here hearing about Oriah.

Jessica Denson (04:17):
And so you mentioned you kind of breezed over it a little bit that you had been involved in health it. Is that the first step into telehealth for you or is that something completely different?

Amanda Havard (04:31):
No, it was in a way I'm certainly a technologist to some extent. I tell technical people I'm not technical and I tell not technical people, I'm technical if that makes sense. So literally in the in-between state. So that was probably when I started to just understand the issues around access to care. I was working, like I said, in the Medicaid space specifically around helping populations who receive home and community-based services get the care they need. And a lot of issues that came out of that really brought out, let's say really highlighted the extent of inequity of health offerings of all kinds in rural areas or certainly in populations, children in foster care, things like that who move around a lot, who don't have a particularly robust network of providers to choose from in a lot of states. That's when I started getting very aware of that. And the mental health piece specifically has been a lifelong near and dear to my heart issue. And the idea of getting people to the right help when they need it was very natural and appealing to me. When Richard brought all this up,

Jessica Denson (05:44):
Is there a reason you say it's very near and dear to your heart?

Amanda Havard (05:49):
So one, I have a lot of plenty of friends I think as we all do, but two for me, I'm a startup land, especially the era that I was entering it. The last thing somebody would do as a founder, certainly as a female founder would raise their hand and say, I'm really struggling with my mental health. And I remember deeply trying to hide any struggles I might have had with it and never ever talked about any of it. And when I met Richard and when I got into Oriah, I realized that one of the most important things I could do as a leader was probably say, I am actually here in front of you because I myself have struggled quite a bit and the way I've learned to say it to the team lately is in case you haven't heard me say it lately, I'm someone who is alive because of access to quality mental health care and I wouldn't be without it. Yeah. So if that's personal,

Jessica Denson (06:48):
Yeah, that's pretty personal. And I would think that gives you a unique perspective in that you can really understand where a patient's coming from, where they may want to just not leave their home or they may want to speak in a different way rather than in person that it's not as scary and you're not as vulnerable, maybe you feel less vulnerable by doing that. You think because you've had that experience you could kind of relate to what patients may be going through.

Amanda Havard (07:19):
For sure. And I mean I could specifically could relate when Richard brought this up, he's like, imagine this. It is, it's the time when somebody needs their therapy or whomever most is usually when they actually get them leased. So his examples were again at Child Island and foster care who gets moved around and therefore doesn't get to form those healing relationships. Or even just a child who maybe is in a shared custody agreement during the summer when they go stay with the parent they're not used to, that's when they wouldn't get to see their therapist unless it was telehealth. Those are obviously both kid examples, but we have quite a few families that Aria sees our military families. So whether it's through deployments or just moving around, being able to continue seeing somebody and forming that trusting relationship relationship, that's something that we know is really important. But for me, when he was saying this to me, I was like, oh yeah, I know I'm living in my mother's guest room, unsure if she's going to make it through. I can't imagine not seeing my therapist right now and I only could because of telehealth.

Jessica Denson (08:24):
Well then let's get into how that passion and that idea is lived out through Oriah Health. What is the primary mission of the company?

Amanda Havard (08:36):
As I say, we always used to say it as we formed it to ask that question of where care needs to reach. We're starting to say more and more these days is our real mission is to help people heal. And heal is a really interesting almost complex word in the mental health space because a lot of it is about management, certainly not about cures, but more and more especially coming out of the pandemic, especially with some of the crises around us with teens mental health, we are very interested in taking trauma-informed approaches and thinking through symptoms that we see and asking the question how many of them might be an effective trauma rather than a primary diagnosis that's going to follow in the rest of their lives. And so when we do that and we ask that question, not only are we fulfilling that original mission, which is to make sure we get the quality care to people wherever they are, whomever they are, but we are now also doing it with the lens of hope almost that we might find you in a really difficult spot, literally and figuratively, but there's a way forward.

Jessica Denson (09:47):
And per your website you do this. I think you kind of touched on it there a little bit with leveraging data and technology to improve the quality of treatment and the care client's experience. Can you expand upon that, how you do that and leverage that data and technology to do so?

Amanda Havard (10:07):
Yeah, absolutely. So I touched on earlier, this is the first time that the company itself is not a tech company, but it is tech enabled obviously. And so one of the real issues that we see and we hear clients say all the time is that they just don't know where to start. They don't know how to go about finding a therapist. And even if they do, like there're increasingly more services to help with that, you still really need the right fit. And what we also noticed for us was that particularly that the providers really had needs as well around getting a caseload that made sense for them, both from just the logistics and timeline, but also making sure it was filled with the types of clients who really gave them a sense of purpose and reminded them that even in an emotionally draining job, you could still essentially remember why you followed the calling in the first place.

So how that fits into the data behind the scenes is that my pet project throughout the entirety of Aria has been working on an algorithm that helps our humans who are the humans answering phones or interacting with our clients directly. It gives them a tool they can use internally to pinpoint the provider who's probably going to be the best fit based on what we learn, even in that short early conversation before they get scheduled with someone. And by doing that and by specifically considering not just what that client needs but also what that provider really knows they excel at, that has been a really core piece of what we do and I believe do well at Riot.

Jessica Denson (11:50):
So making even better matches from the start so people aren't going through three different therapists to find the right one. That's fantastic. 

Amanda Havard (12:00):
I want to add one thing there too. That's a huge equity issue too is that you or I might know that if we don't think it's the right fit, we might go find the second or third therapist. Most people don't realize they have that kind of agency. It doesn't even dawn on them that they could. We try to set the tone now and be like, if that's not a fit, that's okay, but it's truly the faster we can get someone to the right person is huge. But also remembering that some people don't even know that they can advocate for themselves to try someone different. So yet another reason getting it right is important at the beginning.

Jessica Denson (12:33):
So you're helping inform them also that they have rights so to speak, of this person's not right for you, it's okay and giving them that. Absolutely. Yeah, that's wonderful too. Do you feel as a result of the pandemic, more providers and patients and even policymakers are open to the idea of telehealth for mental services, mental health services?

Amanda Havard (12:57):
I do and we can see different states across the country have responded in different ways. I was actually at the capitol here in Kentucky on Monday having a conversation about that where Kentucky especially has done a great job increasing and protecting access to services for mental health services via telehealth, but you can still find certain regulations that just never got updated from some of that post pandemic land. And so we bringing those to the surface to make sure all different types of mental health treatment where it's appropriate for telehealth can be accessed via telehealth.

Jessica Denson (13:36):
Since you said you're also in Texas, is it just a different landscape you have to approach it differently in every state or just understand the regulations within those states? I think some people might think it's just a federal, the feds just say how it's going to be and that's what the states have to do, and that's not really the case, right?

Amanda Havard (13:54):
That's not the case at all. I mean, healthcare is such a regulated industry and I mean I had a very Pollyanna attitude at the beginning of this like, oh, so if you're licensed in one state and a client moves away, can we not keep seeing that client? That's stupid. It's telehealth. And then I remember asking our lawyers once, I was like, can't we just fix that? And he goes, no. And I said, no, I don't like, no. He goes, yes. And I go, why? He says the 10th Amendment. I'm like, oh, that's a real one. The 10th Amendment of course giving states their individual rights. And so healthcare has some level of federal policy. The Center for Medicaid, Medicare services CMS sets a lot of tone and policy, but at the same time, every single state has its own health regulations, but remembering that even that is not all one thing because we have clinical social workers and licensed professional counselors and psychologists and psychiatrists and practitioners, and every one of those is governed by their own rules and their own boards. It's very complex.

Jessica Denson (15:00):
It seems like it would be difficult navigating that. Has there been some lessons or you've learned or words of wisdom you would offer others if they stepped into this area?

Amanda Havard (15:10):
Yeah, it's a great question. So I was lucky that having worked in the Medicaid space before, I had had to navigate that complexity that is every state and even territory having its own rules separate from the federal rules, and it really informed our strategy from day one because Aria is really unique in that Richard and I started it and he backed it at the beginning, who sees clients brick and mortar has done that for 23 years, but he really wanted to see this thing come to life. So he invested in it and the obvious thought on his mind was, and then we'll go nationwide, I was like, if we don't, I would say we're going to go state by state. And so for us, one, that's a huge piece. Two, I can't say this enough, to every business person, tech person, aspiring entrepreneur, these aren't just regulations like rules.

You can break. I mean a lot of them are genuinely laws where you are getting into very serious trouble, not that we have, but you could, right? If you ignore them, certainly the licensure boards are particularly particular. I will say it means that anytime you're in this space, you really just have to be willing to and committed to researching all those different rules and keeping up with them. I mean, this is where I go back to saying we're tech enabled because we still have a lot of in-house tech that is keeping up with all those rules so our team can reference them as needed. Those are things that it's really easy to ignore and when you're in a regulated industry of any kind, you really can't do that.

Jessica Denson (16:55):
Are there some things in your opinion, I know I'm asking you to pontificate a little bit, but in your opinion that would make things better and easier in the space if policymakers were to allow cross borders or are there certain policies that are really standing in the way of better treatments? Anything that you could think of just that really sticks a bur in your saddle, I guess is what I'm trying to say? Sure.

Amanda Havard (17:23):
No, yeah, it's a great question. So there are several pieces of that in motion Now. The biggest one is if there was either some national recognition of a licensure type or ideally just reciprocity between states on similar licenses, I got to give credit to the national social work board. They've spent quite a bit of time coming up with an compact that's meant to do that. Now that said, each individual state then has to turn around and adopt that compact, so it's slow going when I would've loved to have seen it move more. The other thing that I personally believe in, but I don't see happening soon is if you've established care with a client, being able to continue seeing them, even if they move across state lines. Because ultimately, and some of that we saw during covid, that's an example of a temporary allowance that was made that did not get solidified into legislation and ongoing policy, but to Richard's original vision here it was people move, they get disruptions in care, and if we could protect continuity and care, that's really the power of telehealth that an increased access. So I'd love to see that if you have that relationship that heals as we say, and you have done that hard work, there really should be no reason to disrupt that, if that makes sense.

Jessica Denson (18:55):
It does make sense. Are there any other covid era, so to speak, telehealth laws that you were really, that's a positive that may be rolled back or already have been rolled back that you'd like to see return? Or is that the big one for you is the continuing continuity of care?

Amanda Havard (19:14):
It's a great question. There are some, again, hilariously, it varies state by state, but I think another big issue in telehealth policy is pay parity. That is if I give you 60 minutes of therapy in person versus 60 minutes in therapy via telehealth, ensuring that that gets the same reimbursement, that is not something that is universally protected. But because a lot of folks who wouldn't have been able to get telehealth at all pre covid inherently, then once covid happened and they were allowed suddenly to bill for Medicaid, or sorry, bill for services even including Medicare, which historically had not allowed for any telehealth, then there naturally was pay parity, right? They weren't changing the rates all of a sudden in the middle of the national health emergency. And so I think that's going to go a long way to really protecting really the providers in staying in a world where they accept insurance.

Because really what happens is that people end up not wanting to deal with insurance, not getting anywhere near as well paid as they could be in a private practice market. But then you ultimately have narrowed who you can treat and remember, these are people who are literally called helping professions. None of them got into it to only help people who could afford to be helped. So I found it really important and has worked hard to keep that world where we accept Medicaid, we work with insurers, we work with tricare, the military payer because we're trying to make sure that people really get that access. But pay parity is going to go a long way on that one.

Jessica Denson (21:03):
I've heard that echoed from other doctors I've talked to or from doctors I've talked to over the last year and a half. One question on the provider side, are a lot of the providers running their own practices out of their own offices and then they connect with you? How do they connect with oriah? Health

Amanda Havard (21:23):
Providers come to us from many different places, and we have certainly had a host of different backgrounds, but I can tell you that there is a provider who does best in our environment, and that persona, if you will, is someone who is coming out of a position that was burning them out because when they get to us, they have a lot more freedom, a lot more agency, they can adjust their caseloads up or down, whether their priority is more time with their family or just trying to get their feet back under them versus time when they want to take a full caseload and make fantastic money. But that person who's coming out of an inpatient setting or a community clinic where they were just seeing too many clients and never had time on their schedule for their existing clients because new ones were showing up because the wait lists were so long, that person who is literally standing there going, I got into this. It was a calling and I don't know if I can do this anymore. That person, when they get to us, we're exactly right for them, and that really is the path that we see for providers thriving in our world.

Jessica Denson (22:28):
And I thought it was interesting that you mentioned military spouse or military families. They move from place to place to place. What's kind of your, I know you don't necessarily want to give me all the numbers, like breakdowns with kids and military families and that kind of thing, but overall, how many patients are you able to reach do you feel, because of telehealth that may not have had access before or that continuity that you're talking about? Are you really seeing big number jumps in certain areas or just whatever you can share about that type of what that patient is, and how many do you think as an estimate?

Amanda Havard (23:12):
One thing to just echo our always remembering that the people we serve are both the patients and the providers. The providers. We actually do have quite a few military spouses specifically because that way when they get uprooted and have to move, they don't have to break off their cases and start a whole new practice when they move. So we have military spouses who are all over the world, sitting on US bases right now who work all kinds of very strange time zone hours to be able to maintain the same job they loved and to be able to keep seeing the clients they formed a relationship with. So that's really unique. That is very unique on that side of it. Very unique.

Jessica Denson (23:51):
I didn't catch that. That was what you were saying, that they were also providers. 

Amanda Havard (23:56):
Wonderful. Yes. Yeah. Well, and I mean more and more we know that shared lived experience is so important in understanding and in treating and connecting. And so given that we do treat so many military families, being a part of one obviously is very helpful. But think of the other reasons. I mean, if your spouse gets a job and you move states, then you have to start all over again. I mean, telehealth is a really interesting option where you don't, and this is part of what Aria really was formed to do, is be telehealth through and through. So while Richard has a brick and mortar practice, Connell and Associates down in Texas, the rest of us are telehealth and we just work with clinic and community partners. When someone needs a higher level of care than telehealth, which is a thing, it is not responsible to treat everybody via telehealth, at least for every service or at every kind of stage they might be in.

But in terms of your question on how many, because of that, everybody we see is seeing telehealth. I know that we conduct several thousand appointments a month. The large majority of those are therapy, but a pretty significant portion are medication management. So psychiatrists or nurse practitioners and the like who are all specialized in psychiatry. That's huge. And I will say too that in terms of people we get to reach who we may not otherwise without telehealth, that's a lot of different types of people. So in some cases, that's somebody like me who's an executive traveling all the time, and if I had to stop and cancel my appointments every time that my travel schedule changed or my meeting schedule changed, that would get really difficult to make the time to take care of my mental health. And so it's just a convenience factor, but it's important for continuity.

But we also say if you've got a mom struggling with postpartum depression, she can really only get away when she's got a baby napping or trying to nap, not let me get someone to come and watch the child and go somewhere else. And then more importantly, and this one gets overlooked possibly the most, is that it's a huge privilege of only a certain type of profession where you can say, I'm going to be out for a couple hours this afternoon and then I'll be back on. Whereas that's a very good point. Yes. Right. That would be they've got to take time off and that's not a thing they have to take PTO, they don't have paid leave. Maybe they, they're in an environment where doing that is a mark against them that gets in the way of them moving forward or could even put their job at risk. We forget that that regular hourly worker, the majority of US workers who don't have access to, I mean they rely on us to be able to take their session while they're sitting in their car or at night or on a Saturday, I mean, whatever it may be. Just having this healthcare that goes with you is really important.

Jessica Denson (27:00):
I think that's a great point about the hourly person because easy to just be, oh, well, you could just take off for a doctor's appointment. It's not that easy for everyone, especially if you have families or an older parent, you're looking after all kinds of things. So completely. I just want to echo what you're saying. I guess I want to get on the bandwagon. I did know in my open that it is Women's History month in March, and that's where we're going to air this interview. Part of why I invited you is because you are doing cool things in technology and telehealth. Tell me from your perspective why it's important to remember and study women who've made history or who've done great things in startups or technology or any of those areas from your personal point of view.

Amanda Havard (27:46):
Well, like anything, representation matters. Part of the reason it was so easy for me to envision myself as a leader, a technologist, a business owner, what have you, was I had a lot of that in my life. I saw a lot of women and men, but I certainly saw plenty of women who were very successful. And so being able to see that whatever the field, stem field, walking space, travel all the way to a fantastic chef or an artist or somebody who has used their power and their position for good and to advance others, I mean, all of those things that we might learn about during women's history month, those are incredibly important for everyone. One for girls and young women to see themselves as the change makers. We like to say if nothing changes, nothing changes. So we want them to know they have a driver's seat.

But it's also equally important for folks who by no fault of their own, have only heard stories of a very specific type of male-centric, white centric history. And being able to start unearthing the critical characters along the way doesn't just help the person who is due for representation and to see themselves in the stories around them, but it also helps the rest of us understand and hopefully become more aware if we did have plenty of privilege that we maybe need to be thinking of things a little differently and recognize the accomplishments of others and maybe not judge what a room might look like.

Jessica Denson (29:22):
Yeah. You're a CEO and you've started several. You've done worked in startups and working toward the c-suite, so to speak. There's a disproportionately amount of men to women across the country. That's not anything I think anybody would argue. What do you think we need? What advice, I guess is what I'm trying to ask, would you offer other women who want to be in executive roles who want to do more? What advice or words of encouragement would you offer them?

Amanda Havard (29:54):
One of the things that I do, and it's hard to then say everybody should do this. So I'm not saying this, but I've noticed that much the same way that I'll find a way to speak business to tech people and tech to business people, or I'll find a way to speak business to clinical partners and then clinical back to business partners and advocate for both sides. I focused a lot of energy over the years in understanding the generation that comes, or several generations that come before me, and understanding why maybe their perspectives are what they are or what their history is, and not just showing up to think that's nice, but I'm going to burn it down now. And so being able to build bridges between people who maybe don't see the world the same way that I do or my team does, being able to find a way to articulate your points and do so in a way that doesn't come across as all those terrible words that get thrown at us around angry and difficult and all of that.

It may suck that it's true, that you still have to navigate that, but at this moment in time, you still have to navigate that. But it's doable. It shouldn't be at the expense of your sanity or your mental health. And I do think it's a good time to show up as yourself then You're not seeing me, so you can't tell I'm this crazy person who wears these crazy heels and blazers and red lipstick all the time, but I do. So I'm not trying to hide the femininity. I think we're lucky to not have to anymore, but it's that combination of you got to trust yourself. You got to trust your gut. You got to trust that you're capable because you are, and then know it's going to take anything finessing different rooms and figuring out the right way to communicate. And I will just put my own subtext here to say many people would disagree with that and they would not be wrong. That's what I think. I've been very fortunate to have a lot of people really believe in me because I could make that space to sort of build some bridges.

Jessica Denson (32:03):
And really any woman navigating that space now is going to help down the road. It's going to help down the road. It's going to make it easier for other women that follow. So I appreciate you and applaud you for that. Thank you. You're welcome. You deserve it. You've done some pretty incredible things.

Amanda Havard (32:23):
I would like to add one thing I just realized. So we are big on making sure that one, our people have mentors like mentorship, and we tend to say we put people in a role that's a little bit out of their reach, and then we've got a support and scaffold putting them there. We can see their talents. That is definitely true of young women. I have some really talented women in my organization who don't have degrees, things that might have historically excluded them from consideration of leadership, but they're amazing. Which leads me to one night at an investor event many years ago, was speaking to someone probably about 10 years older than I was, and talking about how there were three women in the room that night out of about 50 of us, and she said, the one thing I wish somebody had told me earlier is that don't just look around and figure out how you're going to get in the room.

Figure out who else you need to bring with you. And that probably has been so impactful to me and I don't even realize it. So the other thing is we're not competing with each other. It is a rising tide situation, right? We will go further together. So being able to support one another and support and champion women and being able to help them even be their sounding board or their place they scream to when they didn't have to go back in and not scream for a minute, that's really important. But that concept of look around and figure out who you want to bring with you, that's important.

Jessica Denson (33:51):
Yeah, I think that's important as well. If you could see me, I'm nodding my head vigorously. Yes, agreeing with what you're saying and the importance of bringing others along and allowing women to still be women. We don't necessarily need to run things the way men would in the stereotypical fashion, but the idea being your authentic self and doing your own, and I love that you said, I wear the hills and I have the red lipstick, but I can still run a room. I think that's fantastic. So as for Aria Health, I'd be remiss if I didn't ask what's next on the horizon for the company? Anything you can share, anything you're excited about?

Amanda Havard (34:29):
Yes, several things I'm excited about. One is we are leaning further and further into this trauma-informed programming. So one of the things we're lobbying for, if you will here in Kentucky, is to make sure folks who can receive opioid use treatment, other substance use disorder treatment via telehealth, where appropriate. There's some really great research out there that intensive outpatient programs delivered to people where they are so that you don't have to get up, go to treatment, maybe get your kids taken away from you, quit your job or lose your job, but instead that you have a chance to receive treatment while living your life and staying in your context. That's huge and important to us, and that's something that we're hoping to launch in Kentucky here in 2024 and all of that. We're working behind the scenes, both in Texas and Kentucky to work on different projects that I'll say are supportive to our mental health efforts.

One of the things that we're really, really passionate about is therapy is a toolbox, a toolkit. It is not the healing, right? You have to do it. You play a role in your own healing and knowing that and finding that sacred balance of understanding, you're not just what's happened to you and it's not your fault, but you do have a role to play in going forward, and you have a role in getting better. That's a really hard, important duality you have to hold. And so some of those things are, I'll call them fun to me, hopefully for others, but I myself certainly have found success in boiling really complex ideas in therapy down to a little mantra I'll take with me or a phrase. And then around the company, a lot of those phrases that came from cognitive behavioral therapy or other modalities have become phrases we use at work.

And then there are phrases we use with our friends. And so some of those were actually launching on everything from journals with some prompts in it to, as I'm sitting here right now, I'm wearing a T-shirt that is a prototype one of our staffers made that says the way you talk to yourself matters because it does. And I've got a prototype of a tote bag that says, we'll future you. Thank you. Right? Just like quick check-in before that decision. And little things like that that I know seem silly, but are really important to the long-term and ongoing success of many people's mental health treatment. It's figuring out those bite-sized ways to feel better and to bring better into your life. Not better numb out, but better. Like face it, reframe your thoughts, move on to the next thing. And so we're excited about the idea that alongside some unbelievably high quality, cutting edge trauma treatment, other psychotherapy methodologies, we're also just want to walk the walk and have little ways to bring those types of phrases and questions into the world.

Jessica Denson (37:34):
I think those are fabulous. I'm sitting here thinking, yeah, will my future self thank me for what I do today? That does stick with you. Yeah. Just two more questions and I'll let you go. What do you think is ahead for telehealth services and offerings in general? Are you seeing anything positive that you're noticing across the country or anything else that you're excited about? Not necessarily just for Oriah Health, but in general.

Amanda Havard (38:00):
Yeah. I'm particularly excited about the integration of behavioral health care into general health. And my personal bend is integrating general health and primary care practices into behavioral health. One of our other little phrases is, get your head right, get your heart. Get your body right in that quarter, right? You're not going to hate yourself healthy. You're not going to break habits without being aware of them and dealing with them. And so to that end, for telehealth, I think just the ease of, I'm hoping partnerships between primary care systems and physicians along being able not just to refer out, but perhaps work together under some new rules that haven't been around for more than a year, including one that allows counselors to essentially bill under primary care doctors. That's something that I have not seen really get into motion. But imagine for every PCPI talk to who's like, I don't even know where to send people.

If it was like, okay, and now when you check out, they'll get you scheduled for a telehealth therapy visit this week. There's, there's some great policy changes that have happened that are going to make those things possible, and I'm really looking forward to capitalizing on those. And then I also think that nicely solves for what often comes up as the major question in telehealth is, well, don't you need to see them in person at some point? And go back to my military spouses examples and all of that, if that's the case, that's problematic. And so I got to give the DEA some props for a way that they have handled that over the last several months, put out a rule around making sure someone has been seen in person once a year. But it could be that we collaborate with their primary care or other physician who has seen them in person, and then they refer back to us, and we're in communication. So a necessary piece where you do need a local physician and you should be seen in person, could possibly, those partnerships with behavioral health could extend people's access and really protect their access to telehealth ongoing. So that's something that's really exciting me.

Jessica Denson (40:17):
A lot of big things are coming. I'd love to do another interview down the road and see how things are going. Check in a year from now, or six months from now with you. Finally, what do you hope the one thing our audience takes away from today's discussion, if nothing else, what they should really know about Oriah Health?

Amanda Havard (40:37):
We believe in healing, and we believe you can get through anything, and there are ways to help yourself through it, and I think people need to hear that more.

Jessica Denson (40:48):
Thank you, Amanda, for taking time to talk with us today about Oriah Health and all you're doing. We really appreciate you.

Amanda Havard (40:55):
Oh, thank you so much. This was a great chat.

Jessica Denson (41:02):
Again. My guest today has been Amanda Haard, the CEO and Co-founder of Aya Health, a telehealth company based in Bowling Green, Kentucky that's focused on expanding access to mental health services. I'll include a link to the company's website in the description of this podcast. On the next episode of Connect to Nation, you'll meet a filmmaker who thinks to the pandemic, was forced to use technology in new ways to make her art, learn how it's won her accolades, and find out what she's working on now. I'm Jessica Sen. Thanks for listening. If you like our show and want to know more about us, head to connect or look for the latest episodes on iTunes, iHeartRadio, Google Podcast, Pandora, or Spotify.

Introduction to Amanda Havard
Mission of Oria Health
Telehealths impact after the COVID-19 pandemic
How providers and doctors connect with Oria Health
Why women representation matters in tech
Oria Health therapy tool kit
Integration of behavioral health care into general health