Cartwheel Care, a Boston-based mental health startup geared toward children, received $3.9 million in seed funding from the San Francisco-based venture capital firm, General Catalyst.
Cartwheel plans to use the funding to scale its school-based mental health services in Massachusetts and potentially other states. The company is also working to become an in-network provider with different insurance plans, said founder and CEO Joe English.
Other investors active in digital health include BoxGroup and Able Partners.
Cartwheel partners directly with schools to provide mental health services for children via telehealth, English said. Once kids are referred by a school, Cartwheel clinicians reach out to assess the student. If the student needs support, the company’s clinicians will provide short-term therapy sessions. Its child psychiatrists can also prescribe a student’s medications (they do not prescribe controlled medications such as Adderall).
“Technology is a huge part of our vision,” English said. “As we've been starting these pilot programs with schools, it has become obvious that a lot of telehealth platforms are not built with schools in mind today. We want to find ways that software can make their lives easier.”
On top of getting this service covered by insurance plans, Cartwheel executives are looking to government funding to help launch its programs.
Through the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act passed in June, the federal government is investing $1 billion over the next five years in mental health support in schools. The government also set aside more than $100 billion from the American Rescue Plan stimulus package in 2021 for school-based programs, said Cartwheel co-founder Daniel Tartakovsky.
“We think schools have been trying to take advantage of these funds but often haven't found a great place to invest them,” Tartakovsky said.
Funding for mental health startups has exploded in recent years. Startups focused on children’s mental health have popped up within this larger category. According to Digital Health Business and Technology’s database, at least eight mental health startups specifically marketed toward kids have raised a collective $470.4 million since 2021.
Other mental health startups offer both pediatric and adult therapy and prescriptions. Two mental health startups that have advertised to younger people on Instagram and TikTok, Cerebral and Done, are reportedly under investigation for their prescription of controlled medications.
While schools are not the traditional route for digital health startups, Dr. Juliana Chen, Cartwheel’s medical director said this approach meets kids where they spend the majority of their days.
“It’s people who know these kids and know their families,” Chen said. “So instead of going to TikTok or Instagram or the web to get your supposed trusted source of information, the trusted information is through the school.”
Correction: An earlier version had the funding amount as $3.75 million.