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NYC Launches Free Telehealth Service for Troubled Teens

Analysis  |  By Eric Wicklund  
   November 17, 2023

The partnership with Talkspace addresses a surge in teenagers—both in the city and nationally--reporting severe behavioral health concerns and not receiving care.

New York City officials have launched a telehealth platform specifically designed to give teens access to behavioral health services.

The ‘TeenSpace’ platform, developed in a partnership with digital health company Talkspace, enables those between the ages of 13 and 17 to meet with a licensed therapist by phone, video, or text at no cost.

The program comes at a time when healthcare organizations across the country are struggling to find the resources to help a teenage population facing a surge of behavioral health issues. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says depression in that age group has increased to the point that it’s a “major public health concern,” with some studies estimating one in every five is in need of care and more than half of those aren’t getting the care they need.

NYC officials say that percentage is even higher in the Big Apple. According to the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), some 38% of NYC high school students in 2021 reported feeling so sad or hopeless almost every day for at least two weeks during the past 12 months that they stopped doing their usual activities.

These concerns also show up in hospitals, with emergency departments facing a high number of teens seeking mental health services and having few resources to handle them.  Many health systems are integrating behavioral health services into their primary care platform, as well as partnering with specialists to handle the influx of ED patients needing urgent care.

"Coming out of a once-in-a-century pandemic, we know that levels of anxiety and depression have increased particularly among our young people," Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom said in a press release put out by the mayor’s office. The new telehealth portal "puts access to mental health support right in the hands of our young people. They can use their smart phone or other devices to connect with a practitioner in a time and space that works for them.”

Talkspace will manage the platform, which was designed by the company and city officials with input from teens. The service also enables a mental health professional treating a teen to refer that teen to additional resources, including in-person care.

Eric Wicklund is the associate content manager and senior editor for Innovation, Technology, and Pharma for HealthLeaders.


Surveys estimate that at least 1 in every 5 teens is struggling with behavioral health concerns, and many aren’t receiving the care they need.

In New York City, officials have partnered with digital health company Talkspace to create a telehealth portal that gives teens free, on-demand access to a professional counselor.

Health systems across the country are integrating behavioral healthcare and primary care services and partnering with digital health companies to handle the surge of teens visiting the emergency department in need of urgent care.

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