Health, Wellness & Biotech

Incorporating Mental Health Into 911: MD Ally Calls On $3.5M Seed

General Catalyst led a $3.5 million seed round into MD Ally, developer of a program that incorporates telehealth and mental health services into 911 and first-responder dispatches.

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The New York-based company’s platform integrates into the back of 911 so dispatchers can determine if it is a nonemergency call that could be connected directly to licensed physicians virtually, founder and CEO Shanel Fields told Crunchbase News. Callers still have the option for an ambulance, but more importantly, connection to the most appropriate level of care, she added.

“Research shows that low-income and indigent populations have higher rates of dead-on-arrival, and are using emergency room care as their primary care,” she said. “Everyone using the same resources decreases the ambulance availability and drives up wait times, as well as overcrowding ER waiting rooms and unnecessary costs.”

Fields, the daughter of a former EMS volunteer, founded the MD Ally in 2018 to create a virtual response tier that will keep 911 callers from receiving a bill averaging thousands of dollars for nonemergency care, she said. The approach is to allow existing public safety to expand beyond emergency response connectivity to social services, she added.

The company launched its program in 2019, and spent the last year building out the technology before engaging its first pilot.

Joining General Catalyst in the round was Seae Ventures. In total, MD Ally has raised $4.5 million in funding, according to Crunchbase data. This included a $1 million pre-seed round in 2020, led by Red & Blue Ventures.

Frank Williams, EMS Chief of Butler County Emergency Medical Services in Kansas, said in a statement that MD Ally’s safety net process and automatic resources available within eight minutes is “unheard of in most systems.”

“The world has changed a lot, and the ability to provide care remotely means a lot for overhead costs, which is going to be somewhere around $1,000 per run,” Williams added. “The savings are important, but that [safety net] directly equates to safer best practices. MD Ally did a great job of communicating with the crews and helping to support a culture change.”

Meanwhile, the company is already operating in New York, Florida, Louisiana, Arizona and California. Fields is deploying the new capital into R&D to expand capabilities and services, including mental health. MD Ally has seven employees currently, and she also expects to double the team this year.

“Even if someone calls for toe pain, there could be mental health underlying conditions,” she said. “There are people who call 911 multiple times a month. There is also a request from law enforcement that they don’t want to respond to mental health, so this creates virtual support to de-escalate those situations.”

Photo of MD Ally founder and CEO Shanel Fields courtesy of Hearst Labs.
Blogroll illustration: Li-Anne Dias

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