Health Tech

Pelago Unveils Contingency Management Program To Support Those With Substance Use Disorder

Pelago’s new contingency management program rewards patients for engaging in treatment, such as completing a survey, completing app check-ins, attending appointments and completing cognitive behavioral therapy exercises.

Pelago, a virtual clinic for substance use treatment, launched a contingency management program, in which members are rewarded for healthy behaviors like engaging in treatment, the company announced Tuesday.

New York City-based Pelago serves employers and health plans and supports members struggling with tobacco, alcohol and opioids. It provides behavioral therapy and medication-assisted treatment programs. The company serves patients in all 50 states.

Its new contingency management program is starting with seven customers and will support those battling alcohol use disorder, though the company plans to expand to additional clients and other substances in the future. Patients will receive a Pelatoken for achieving certain goals, such as completing a survey, completing app check-ins, attending appointments and completing cognitive behavioral therapy exercises. Each Pelatoken equals one U.S. dollar, and the rewards can be redeemed as Amazon gift cards.

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“Pelago has created its own Contingency Management program in order to overcome one of the greatest barriers to treatment success: engagement and retention in evidence-based care,” said Dr. Suzette Glasner, chief scientific officer at Pelago and Ph.D. UCLA researcher, in an email. “By rewarding engagement and increasing motivation to sustain involvement with treatment, we are taking an empirically validated approach to solving for this third barrier.”

To track the success of the new program, Pelago’s clients will provide anonymized claims data. The company will compare those who received contingency management to those who did not receive contingency management (but still received Pelago’s substance use management services). These comparisons will be based on three clinical outcome domains: engagement, retention and substance use, Glasner said.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, contingency management for the treatment of substance-use disorders is proven to be effective but is underutilized. Glasner said this is partially because of the “stigma and misconceptions that surround [substance use disorders] in general, including that it’s due to a lack of self control, criminal tendencies, or shame that often accompanies someone with a [substance use disorder].” However, broader use of contingency management may be needed, with 37.5 million U.S. workers unable to receive successful substance use treatment.

Another company that uses contingency management for substance use disorder is DynamiCare. However, Pelago claims to be the “first nationwide digital substance use management provider to offer contingency management.”

In launching the contingency management program, Pelago aims to optimize its services and “reward those behaviors most likely to improve motivation, engagement, and retention in treatment, thereby improving health outcomes of its members,” Glasner said. 

The launch of the program follows the company’s $58 million Series C funding round that was announced at the end of March. The round was led by Atomico and included participation from Kinnevik AB, Octopus Ventures, Y Combinator, Eight Roads and GreyMatter Capital.

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