Transforming pediatric mental health care with Blackbird Health

Define Ventures
4 min readFeb 21, 2024

We are thrilled to announce our partnership with Blackbird Health — a leading provider of hybrid mental healthcare solutions dedicated to transforming the way young people access and experience mental wellness. Define Ventures led Blackbird Health’s $17 million Series A round.

At Define Ventures, we have always believed in the need and opportunity for new care models in pediatric mental health. While the pandemic put a spotlight on our mental health emergency for young people, this has been a significant crisis within our healthcare system and society at-large for some time. According to data from 2013–2019, 1 in 5 children between the ages of 3 and 17 struggled with a mental, emotional, developmental, or behavioral disorder.

Considering the stubborn roadblocks and limitations — 70% of U.S. counties do not have a child psychiatrist and average appointment wait times are nearly 8 weeks — we knew serving this population effectively would require a careful, comprehensive, and flexible care delivery model to meet children and their families where they are. Additionally, it would require upholding rigorous clinical standards that drive meaningful outcomes, led by a values-driven and highly experienced leadership team motivated to make a large and lasting impact.

That is why we are excited to announce our Series A investment in Blackbird Health, a pediatric mental health provider that leverages an integrated, virtual and in-person model with a groundbreaking approach to diagnosing and treating children.

Blackbird has built a comprehensive, unified, and connected platform that accurately identifies the underlying root causes of symptoms. In leveraging proprietary computational models and machine-learning algorithms across more than 50 million data points, Blackbird’s clinicians can generate an integrated personalized treatment plan by deeply understanding the psychology, biology, and physiology that make up each individual child’s situation.

Blackbird’s approach takes the trial and error out of delivering care, and the numbers speak for themselves: Blackbird has maintained industry leading retention rates and outcomes, such as 85% of their patients with depression and/or anxiety experience a clinically significant symptom improvement measured by the GAD-7 or PHQ-9. Their integrated care approach results in significant cost reductions through lower utilization of ED visits and higher levels of care — as well as substantially lower use of medications compared to current care standards by leveraging a broad range of effective treatments including therapy (CBT, speech, occupational), supplements, neuro-development, and coaching.

We have conviction in Blackbird’s model not only because it is best for patients and their families, but also because it is best for our healthcare system. By addressing underlying conditions and working in tandem with the patient’s pediatrician, Blackbird’s approach eliminates scenarios where children and their families are bounced between different providers and specialists with limited clinical improvement.

At every step of the diligence processes we were impressed by Blackbird’s leadership team and the rigor of how they operated the company and put patient care first. Following his family’s personal experience as a patient with Blackbird, former Evolent Health Co-founder and COO, Tom Peterson joined as CEO in 2023 and will lead the company through its next phase of growth. Blackbird was co-founded by Amy Edgar, APRN, CRNP, FNP-C, now serving as its Chief Clinical Officer, and Dr. Matt Keener, a board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist. Together they pioneered Blackbird’s “Understand-first” care model to uncover and treat root causes of mental health issues and demonstrated industry-high outcomes. Anita Cattrell serves as Blackbird’s COO and previously worked with Tom at Evolent as its Chief Innovation Officer.

When we meet with entrepreneurs and learn more about their vision, we always evaluate what they’re building as if our family members were their patients or users. Our team can say, without a doubt, that if we ever need this kind of care and support for our families, there is nowhere we would rather turn to than Blackbird. This was clear to us throughout all of our conversations with the Blackbird team as well as when we visited their first clinic in Allentown, PA.

“I’m incredibly excited and grateful for the opportunity to partner with Define because we share the same values and mindset to build a great company that will drive significant, positive impact. Together, we’re going to do much more than build a great business. We’re going to change how kids are understood, treated, and ultimately get better.” — Tom Peterson, CEO

Blackbird Health epitomizes the future of mental healthcare — a future defined by innovation and a dedication to significant cost reductions and superior outcomes. We see a tremendous opportunity for its personalized, technology-driven approach and steadfast focus on understanding the underlying drivers of mental health. We couldn’t be more excited to closely partner with Tom, Amy, and the Blackbird team to scale their model for children in need.

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