HC9 presents an interview series with portfolio company leaders.  We’re interested in how they are solving health care’s biggest problems, what drove them to start a company, and why they chose to work with HC9. 

Richard Lungen (Founder and General Partner, HC9 Ventures)

Today we’re chatting with Eric Frieman, CEO of Forge Health. Eric thanks for joining us. We’d love to hear about when you became the CEO of Forge and what it’s been like since then and what made you decide to found the company.

Eric Frieman (Founder and CEO, Forge Health, www.forgehealth.com)

I became CEO of Forge Health in 2016 when I founded the company. I was 25 years old and I knew that coming into healthcare services would be quite difficult as a young CEO but what I had already learned is that no one was trying to solve an incredibly large issue in the healthcare system in the U.S. And if no one was going to solve it themselves, then I was going to do something about it. So that’s why I ended up leaving investment banking and going into the healthcare services side and starting Forge Health.

Richard Lungen

What was the problem that you identified and how did you plan to solve it?

Eric Frieman 

I came to learn that the problem inherent in behavioral health is that every other part of the healthcare industry has been innovating for decades and behavioral health has not.

It’s the same issue that all other healthcare sub-industries have seen for years. There’s no access to affordable and effective addiction or mental health treatment in the U.S.

Richard Lungen

Tell me more about how you’re going about solving these major issues.

Eric Frieman 

Absolutely, especially in behavioral health, one issue is affordability. We are an in-network provider. We take commercial insurance, Medicaid, as well as Medicare, ensuring that someone’s ability to pay for treatment is not a barrier to getting treatment with Forge.

Richard Lungen

How is Forge differentiating as a service provider?  What is it that makes Forge unique and different from other behavioral health players in the space?

Eric Frieman 

We’re different in a few different ways.

First is our ability to be truly a one-stop-shop for behavioral health. Whether a patient has a mental health issue, a substance use disorder, or a co-occurring condition, we can properly treat them.

Next, whether someone is looking for in-person care or virtual care, we can properly treat them. And whether they are mild, moderate, or severe, we can properly treat them as well.

Another unique aspect of Forge is that we have a multidisciplinary care team, which includes a licensed mental health therapist, a psychiatric provider, as well as a care coordinator.

Additionally, we have a W-2 full-time employed clinician model. Our care teams are all W-2 full-time employed clinicians. In behavioral health, most of our peers, if not all our peers, utilize 1099 contractors.

Lastly, our definition of success for a patient is unique; it’s not just improving their behavioral health or their substance use issues. It’s also improving their overall health and well-being. The unified whole-person approach to care is what makes us unique. We ensure that if a patient has a comorbid medical condition, they’re getting help for that medical condition and following their treatment plan with their specialist as well.

And the same thing goes for social determinants of health. If they need assistance, we help coordinate that assistance with a social service agency or a non-profit.

Richard Lungen

Healthcare is such a unique industry because it touches all of us so personally.  We’re all going to be using the healthcare system. Our loved ones will be accessing care at any given time.  From that standpoint, what is it that gets you out of bed in the morning?

Eric Frieman 

It’s being mission-driven. Addiction and mental health impacts everybody and every family. One in five individuals in the US will have a substance use disorder at some point in their lives.

Mental health impacts us all, if not a loved one. Unfortunately, I’ve seen loved ones who have struggled in a healthcare system that didn’t serve their needs.

I lost my best friend to an overdose. I continue to see every day that mental health and substance use needs are never or rarely incorporated into the various medical fields.

An example that I always give is my brother, who has brain cancer. Mental health care was never a part of that cancer journey for him or his new wife.  That is something that needs to change because addressing mental health is proven to drive better health outcomes.

Richard Lungen

Which is what makes what you do so important in this world. I really appreciate the time today.

Why HC9?

After an extensive process of getting to know the HC9 team, we were incredibly impressed that they shared our mission-focused mentality of leading the charge in driving innovation, improving care delivery, and shaping the future of behavioral health care. Additionally, the HC9 team’s extensive experience and success in building transformative companies and driving healthcare innovation, along with their extensive network of key stakeholders in the U.S. healthcare system, made them the perfect partner to work alongside us as we enhance our value-based partnerships with payers, health systems, primary care providers, Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), government agencies, and employers.  HC9’s extraordinary network, expertise, insights, and guidance have made a profound impact on Forge, and has put is in a leadership position that is getting the attention of companies and leaders across the whole healthcare ecosystem.

About Forge Health

Forge Health is a mission-driven company dedicated to delivering the highest quality, affordable, accessible, and effective “one-stop-shop” mental health and substance use care to individuals, families, and communities in need. The Forge care model utilizes multidisciplinary clinical teams, data analytics, and streamlined care delivery to provide individualized, whole-person care that concurrently addresses mental health and substance use issues while driving improved health outcomes. As the first and only behavioral healthcare provider with a proven, national payor-validated ability to drive clinical outcomes that span all areas of health, Forge Health is leading the charge in driving innovation, improving care delivery, and shaping the future of behavioral healthcare. www.forgehealth.com