Health/Life Sciences

Boulder Care raises $36M to develop telehealth platform to deal with opioid habit

Boulder Care CEO Stephanie Strong outside the telehealth addiction treatment startup’s offices in downtown Portland. (Boulder Care Photo)

Boulder Care, the Portland startup using telehealth to treat people with substance use disorder, has raised $36 million in new funding.

The major influx of cash comes as Boulder Care has established itself as a viable treatment option for people who are addicted to opioids or alcohol. But there’s more to do than just help patients shift from brick-and-mortar clinics to the company’s app-based program.

Boulder founder and CEO Stephanie Strong said it’s important to understand how telemedicine solutions compare to status quo treatment.

“How do we make sure that we’re not perpetuating some of the things that were broken about the system before just by bringing them into the tech model?” Strong told GeekWire, adding that Boulder aims to think about structural changes that need to happen to improve the quality of care. “That’s really what we’re focused on,” she said.

Boulder employs physicians, nurse practitioners, peer recovery specialists, social services support and more as part of a multidisciplinary care team. They work alongside a tech team focused on product, design and engineering. Employee count has grown to 100.

Started well before the pandemic in 2017, Boulder got a boost during the health crisis when the federal government made a public health emergency declaration and waived the requirement for an in-person visit for providers to prescribe Suboxone (Buprenorphine), a medication that Boulder uses to treat adults addicted to opioids.

“That has just changed so much about how well we understand this modality for delivering this care,” Strong said. “There’s so many proof points for how this can be a better experience for patients and for their clinicians.”

Boulder relies heavily on health plans for reimbursement — more than 95% of its business — because 85% of its patients are below the poverty line and a pay-out-of-pocket model is not feasible. In 2020, the company partnered with Premera Blue Cross.

Boulder is currently set up to deliver care in 15 states, with patients primarily in Washington, Oregon and Ohio. The startup plans to use the new funds to triple the size of its care team and grow its ability to treat people in several new markets, “working as quickly as we can to address the urgency of this crisis,” Strong said.

Since its last financing, Boulder has served several thousand patients with opioid and alcohol use disorders, grown revenue by more than 10X, and launched with about 20 enterprise customers, such as Regence and Anthem, and employers, such as Comcast and Hewlett-Packard.

That growth comes as other startups are bracing for or have already been impact by an economic downturn in the U.S., suspending fundraising, freezing hiring or laying off employees.

“An economic downturn unfortunately only expands the need for [substance use disorder treatment],” Strong said. “Joblessness, depression, isolation and addiction are all interconnected, making America’s current climate a very challenging one for the public health crisis Boulder exists to solve.”

Strong, who won the Young Entrepreneur of the Year award at the 2021 GeekWire Awards, was a Forbes 30 under 30 honoree in health care in 2019 and has a background in venture capital investing and consulting around health care and technology.

Boulder has raised about $50 million to date. The Series B investors included Qiming Venture Partners (US), Goodwater Capital, and Laerdal Million Lives Fund, as well as repeat investors First Round Capital, Greycroft, Tusk Venture Partners and Gaingels.

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