Project Healthy Minds® Taps Mental Health Tech Pioneer and Former CEO of OptumHealth Behavioral Solutions Dr. Andy Sekel for Board As It Expands World’s First Free Digital Mental Health Marketplace
New York, April 28, 2022 — Project Healthy Minds, a millennial / Gen Z-driven mental health non-profit, announced today that it has elected Dr. Andy Sekel, a long-time leader in the behavioral health field, to its Board of Directors. Dr. Sekel is the former CEO of UnitedHealth’s Optum Behavioral Health and Specialty Networks and is the Managing Partner at the healthcare and tech venture capital firm Marketplace Funds. Dr. Sekel is also Chairman of the Board of Directors of the leading mental health technology company, Happify Health.
“I am so grateful that Dr. Sekel, who has been involved in building some of the most successful mental health technology companies in the country and who is on the front lines of the digital health revolution, is joining the Project Healthy Minds Board of Directors,” said Phillip Schermer, Founder & CEO of Project Healthy Minds. “Andy is that rare combination of a skilled operator and a genuine thought leader, with deep roots in academic psychology and a distinguished track record in business. He couldn’t bring a more dynamic set of skills and experiences to the Project Healthy Minds Board of Directors.”
Dr. Sekel brings decades of category-defining expertise in behavioral health and digital therapeutics to help support Project Healthy Minds’ development of its free digital mental health marketplace – making it easier for people to discover and choose the right mental health support.
2021 was a record-breaking year for innovation and venture funding for mental health startups. A new report from CB Insights shows that venture funding increased 139% year-over-year to a total of $5.5 billion in 2021 – leading to an unprecedented increase in the number of new digital mental health tools available to the public.
“As we enter a new era of record-breaking innovation in the mental health technology space -- with a proliferation of new forms of mental health support – it is a societal imperative that people have a one-stop-shop on the internet for finding the right mental health services,” said Dr. Sekel. “That’s why I am so excited about the free digital mental health marketplace that Project Healthy Minds is building: by putting health-tech at the core of a non-profit’s programmatic strategy, Project Healthy Minds could help people from every corner of the country find and access mental health services.”
The growing mental health crisis, which was already at epidemic levels pre-pandemic, is now a center-stage issue. Fifty-one percent (51%) of respondents to a recent Project Healthy Minds survey said the pandemic made it harder to get mental health services and support; depression symptoms in US adults have increased threefold during the pandemic (JAMA); one in four young people have seriously contemplated suicide during the pandemic (CDC); and experts are projecting a 50% increase in total mental health cases post-pandemic (McKinsey).
The nation’s mental health crisis continues to affect young people, with 96% of respondents to Project Healthy Minds’ 2021 State of Mental Health survey experiencing anxiety and nearly half (46%) saying they experience it frequently or all the time. The same survey found that two in three young Americans say they are emotionally exhausted or burned out.
Dr. Andy Sekel’s full biography is below:
Andy Clark Sekel, PhD is a senior health care executive and investor. He began his career as a practicing clinical psychologist and university professor. He subsequently became an entrepreneur, co-founding several behavioral health delivery companies that were acquired by Fortune 500 companies. His last company was acquired by Centene Corporation, and Andy transitioned to serve as an executive at Centene where he helped the company grow their specialty division. He subsequently joined the Optum Division of UnitedHealthcare and became the CEO of Optum Behavioral Health as well as the Specialty Division of Optum that included a variety of network businesses.
He is currently Managing Partner of Marketplace Funds, an early-stage venture firm and serves as chairman or board member of several companies in the health care arena. His interest has been companies that improve access and quality in behavioral health as well as substance use disorders. Over the last decade, Andy has focused on leveraging digital capabilities to expand access and provide high quality care. He has been chairman of Happify Health as well as a strategic advisor to Talkspace. In addition, he is working with Kennedy Krieger Institute, affiliated with Johns Hopkins, to support building digital capabilities that commercialize their intellectual property to improve the lives of children and young adults.
Andy has also served as Chair of LifeWorks, a non-profit dedicated to youth and family advocacy and mental health, and a board member for Kennedy Krieger Institute.
Andy has been an avid outdoor enthusiast since he was an Outward Bound School instructor in his early years and is currently hiking and fly fishing in the southwest. He lives with his wife Diane in Santa Fe, NM and Austin, TX. His daughter is a social worker in Austin.
About Project Healthy Minds
Project Healthy Minds is a millennial/Gen Z-driven non-profit startup focused on tackling one of the defining issues of our generation: the growing mental health crisis. Project Healthy Minds is building the world’s first digital mental health marketplace to democratize access to life-changing services, partnering with public figures to destigmatize mental health, and creating standards for businesses to better support employee mental health.
To learn more, please visit: www.projecthealthyminds.com