LAKE TAHOE — A Lake Tahoe-based company is breaking down mental health barriers with an app that connects patients to therapists through video chat.
Larkr launched in November 2017 with the goal of providing more affordable, easy-to-access therapy across the country.
The app is the brainchild of husband-and-wife duo Chris and Shawn Kernes. Chris has worked as a therapist for over 15 years, while Shawn, the founding chief technology officer for the ticket sales platform StubHub, has more than 20 years of experience in building and leading tech-driven companies.
“We want to provide accessibility for folks who have limitations — for example, veterans who are disabled,” Chris said in an interview with the NNBV. “Or if you live in a rural area and have to drive two hours to the nearest therapist, would you be motivated to go?”
Larkr vets and on-boards licensed therapists, and it employs an algorithm to match users with an appropriate therapist based on intake questions.
“We have therapists in 27 different states and we are continuing to look for more,” said Chris. “We have therapists with a range of expertise, whether its anxiety disorders or couples counseling.”
Clients can book recurring appointments, get reminders for appointments on their phones, and have video therapy sessions from anywhere there is internet access.
“Another reason we were motivated to launch this app is because of the stigma attached to mental health,” said Chris. “It is improving, but there is still a negative stigma attached to it and seeking support for it. With Larkr you can see anybody at your convenience, whether it’s in your office at work or at home.”
It’s a win-win for therapists and patients when it comes to finances.
“On average it would cost $150 to see a therapist for a 50-60 minute session. It creates that barrier in terms of accessibility for a lot of people,” explained Chris.
By removing some of the costs associated with therapy, like office space and answering services, Larkr charges $85 for a 50-minute session and offers a simplified process through the app for submitting for reimbursement from insurance companies.
“For the therapist, after the overhead costs, their take home per session is about $25 an hour,” noted Chris. “We can get the therapist to see more people in real time without having to worry about costs like renting a space or marketing themselves.”
For the Kerneses, Larkr is a solution to the barriers that stand in the way of addressing a problem plaguing a substantial portion of the American population.
Approximately one in five adults in the country — 43.8 million — experience mental health issues in a given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Nearly 60 percent of those adults suffering from mental illness did not receive services.
Additionally, NAMI reports that one in five youth, aged 13 to 18, will experience a severe mental disorder at some point during that period.
The consequences are devastating.
Serious mental illness costs American $193.2 billion in lost earnings every year, according to the same organization. It also impacts the number of people living in homeless shelters, jails and juvenile detention centers.
“It’s a really big problem,” said Chris. “Larkr helps to break down a lot of the barriers around seeking support for mental health issues.”
Larkr is available to download for free on the Apple App Store.
Claire Cudahy is a special assignments reporter for the Sierra Nevada Media Group. Email her at email@example.com.