$1.5 million investment expands school-based health care services in Iowa

In recent years, there have been significant increases in certain mental health disorders in youth, including depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation. From 2016 to 2021, the percentage of sixth graders in Iowa who reported feelings of persistent sadness increased by 13% and the percentage increase for 11th graders was 11%.1 As of 2021, 24% of 11th graders experienced suicidal ideation. Committed to supporting the mental health needs of K-12 students, UnitedHealthcare has invested $1.5 million in Hazel Health to expand access to mental health care for 100K students across Iowa.

Hazel Health is the largest provider of virtual physical and behavioral health care to K-12 students in the country.2 The provider’s mission is to transform children’s access to health care through school-based partnerships, culturally competent care and telehealth platforms designed for schools.3 Josh Golomb, CEO of Hazel Health, commented, “Ninety-five percent of kids spend most of their waking hours at school. Amid today’s growing youth mental health crisis, schools can play a pivotal role in identifying unmet mental health needs among our children, connecting them to timely interventions before they reach a crisis point and bridging their families to the broader health care ecosystem.”

The goal of the investment is to rapidly scale a sustainable infrastructure that will provide equitable access to mental health support for 100K students across Iowa. After the first phase of infrastructure-building, therapists will start providing mental health services to students in August. Currently, school districts in Des Moines, Council Bluffs and Cedar Rapids will participate in this program. Additional districts in underserved urban and rural areas will be added throughout the summer of 2024.

Hazel Health’s telehealth services deliver the following benefits to students:

  • School-based telehealth services can lead to earlier identification of students who need care, and after identification, students can receive care within days to weeks
  • This model also expands access to care for rural communities who deal with provider shortages
  • Care is available for all students at no out-of-pocket cost to families
  • Over 50% of Hazel Health’s diverse team of on-staff providers identify as people of color

Research determining program effectiveness found that over 75% of students enrolled in the telehealth services see a significant improvement in clinical symptoms. Additionally, a member satisfaction survey reported that 84% of families reported noticing a positive change in their child’s behavior and/or mental well-being as a result of Hazel’s therapy program. 

Dr. Brian Masterson, senior behavioral health medical director of UnitedHealth Group reflected, “Helping students achieve good mental health is essential for their overall wellbeing and influences their ability to succeed in school and life. Providing virtual mental health services in schools supports access to care for children who need it, while removing obstacles such as transportation and appointment scheduling difficulties.”

UnitedHealthcare is committed to increasing access to mental health services for students. Learn more about our commitment to the Hawkeye state by visiting the plan’s webpage

Get updates on Medicaid topics you care about

Be the first to know about relevant news & insights by subscribing to our newsletter.