Boulder raises $10.5M to expand access to opioid addiction treatment

With investor support and a contract with Premera Blue Cross, Boulder aims to change America’s trajectory

Stephanie Papes
Feb 7 · 5 min read

About six years ago, I began working with a physician group that offered opioid use disorder (OUD) treatment out of a handful of brick-and-mortar clinic locations. I saw firsthand that medication-based treatment for OUD works, in truly transformational ways. Yet Americans face every imaginable barrier to accessing it.

As I supported that platform’s expansion into 11 states, year after year, national overdose rates climbed. I realized something I couldn’t stomach.

The nation’s largest, most well-resourced addiction treatment groups combined are caring for fewer than 1% of Americans who need treatment for their urgent, life-threatening condition.

Specialized treatment facilities are cost-intensive and slow to scale, and outright rejected in communities where addictive disease is rampant (“not-in-my-backyard”). Stigma deters people from seeking care, and burdens clinicians who wish to offer it.

Access gaps are exacerbated by counterproductive industry norms. Programs require mandatory office visits, counseling, pharmacy trips, drug tests: hundreds of encounters for a condition that’s often lifelong.

When you’re fighting a war and losing, it’s time to divine a new strategy.

We must make treatment services accessible, transparent, and frictionless. Boulder was founded from this premise.

BOULDER connects patients to teams of addiction specialists, care coordinators and peer coaches via telemedicine.

Individualized care plans are delivered privately at home through secure video and texting.

Remarkable individuals came together from diverse areas of clinical practice, research, engineering and industry to form the Boulder family.

Our earliest supporters included Josh Kopelman of First Round, clinical visionaries from the founding team of the aforementioned outpatient platform, and health tech maverick Rick Abbott of Premera Blue Cross.

They helped us navigate formidable challenges from industry incumbents threatened by innovation. They championed Boulder’s vision before a single line of code was written, taking a bet on a fledgling venture and pulling us through networks they spent decades building. When you find people who are driven by a deeper purpose and have earned enough trust to take risks on things they believe in, even the most complex, entrenched systems defy all odds and start to change.

As a direct result, Boulder reached the extraordinary people we built the company to care for.

Over 18 months, we grew from 3 to 35, raised ~$15 million & won a federal NIH grant, put roots down in Portland, OR, and began delivering care to 100 patients.

On our path from Seed to Series A, we:

YE 2019 Outcomes

Our most important success metrics are patient retention, satisfaction / experience, and functional outcomes in holistic wellness and quality of life.

In our initial cohort, we achieved 91% 30-day and 82% overall retention. Industry benchmarks are just 30–40%.

Out of ~15,000 treatment days to date, there was only one opioid-related hospital admission and no observed mortality.

These are OUTSTANDING results, and they mean far more than statistics could possibly convey.

A patient delivered a healthy baby boy with no complications. Another in his 60’s said he’s been using heroin since age 14, but because of Boulder, his life is “the best it has ever been.”

Patients enrolled in college courses, regained parental rights, found safe housing, or in one case, remained in treatment despite losing housing, taking video visits from a McDonald’s parking lot.

We send Narcan to every patient to keep them and loved ones safe. At least 2 people used theirs in the last 4 months to reverse fatal overdose.

What’s Next?

As we expand deeper in the Pacific Northwest through a value-based contract with Premera Blue Cross, Boulder aims to soon reach 2 million more people. We strive to cut costs while dramatically improving patient outcomes in OR, AK, WA and beyond.

Patients and caregivers face every barrier to success, yet still achieve it every day. The fight against the opioid crisis is all of ours: against injustice, against a virulent disease, against losing an entire generation of Americans when it’s entirely preventable.

I’m inspired beyond belief by the quiet strength and resilience of people in recovery, and equally so by the people who support them with unending compassion, advocacy and humility. Put simply, they’re my heroes.

We’re thrilled to announce New Series A investors Tusk Ventures and Greycroft Partners will advance Boulder’s next stage of growth, as Jordan Nof and Ellie Wheeler join partners from First Round, Acumen, BoxGroup, SV Angel and individuals like Andrey Ostrovsky, MD. We’re grateful for all of your support!

Stephanie Papes

Written by

Healthcare & technology company-building. Former VC. Focused on the opioid epidemic and expanding treatment to the underserved. NYC.

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