“Now is an opportunity to be engaged”: Highlights from the 2023 Behavioral Health Tech Conference
A diverse array of behavioral health providers, health plans, investment firms, startups, as well as some of the leading minds in national mental health policy, flocked to Phoenix, Arizona last week for the 2023 Behavioral Health Tech Conference, the largest of its kind focused on expanding access to mental health and substance use services through technology and innovation.
The Meadows Institute proudly partnered with Going Digital Behavioral Health to lead the conference’s first ever policy track to advance understanding of the policy and regulatory landscape of innovation and accelerate the adoption of high-quality digital mental health technology.
Meadows Institute Chief Innovation Officer Kacie Kelly presents at the 2023 Behavioral Health Tech Conference
At the conference, Meadows Institute leaders participated in eight sessions on the intersection of policy and the fast-evolving digital mental health scene. (Click here to read our top five takeaways from the policy track.)
The conference kicked off with the presentation of the Young Innovators in Behavioral Health Awards. A partnership between Going Digital: Behavioral Health Tech, Meadows Institute and Hopelab, the awards program recognizes young leaders who have made significant contributions to the access, awareness and advancement of digital mental health care in the United States.
At the ceremony, Meadows Institute Chief Innovation Officer Kacie Kelly joined Chief Clinical Officer Hani Talebi on stage to present the awards.
“As these talented young innovators demonstrate, young people are not simply passive consumers of mental health services but are key partners in developing solutions for the issues that impact them. We salute each of these award winners who are applying their skills, passion and lived experience to generate solutions for young Americans here in Texas and across the country,” said Kelly.
The conference kicked off with the Young Innovators in Behavioral Health Awards
In an interview following the ceremony, one of the winners in the technology category, San Antonio resident Stephen Smith, shared his personal story of going from a college quarterback with a vibrant social life and bright future to being depressed and completely housebound within six months of developing obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) during his sophomore year at San Antonio’s Trinity University.
Today, Smith is the co-founder and CEO of NOCD, an online platform that helps people with OCD overcome the high costs of treatment for the disorder and connect to hard to find specialists. “I’m honored to receive this award, to say the least,” said Smith, who pointed to his fellow winners as proof that “a lot of people under the age of 30 are doing amazing work.” But what makes the award winners impactful leaders is not their age, he stressed, but rather their lived experiences.
“People who have experienced what it’s like to go through the system as patients, as consumers, have a unique lens,” Smith said. “My lived experience was a prerequisite in becoming a behavioral health tech entrepreneur. To fix the system, you need to know where it’s broken.”
Stephen Smith, co-founder and CEO of NOCD
The wisdom of lived experience was a consistent theme throughout the conference’s policy track. In a session titled “Engineering Policy – The Regulatory Accelerants You Need to Know,” moderated by Meadows Institute Chief Policy Officer John Snook, Kristin Kroeger, chief of policy, programs and partnerships at the American Psychiatric Association, said that effective advocacy combines the patient voice and the provider voice. The Meadows Institute’s Talebi agreed: “Nothing about us, without us.”
Another consensus was that there’s never been a better time to get involved in policy. “We’re working in a hot space. You have to come to the conversation prepared, but there is not a policymaker who won’t have a conversation with you,” said Reginald Williams, vice president of international health policy and practice innovations and co-lead, behavioral health at The Commonwealth Fund. “Now is an opportunity to be engaged.”