BRIA provides women with virtual care for reproductive mental health
September 1, 2022
My colleagues Bev Young, MD and Emily Kingdom, MBA, and I organized the launch of BRIA in the Spring of 2022. The goal is to offer virtual, seamless, integrated and comprehensive care for women struggling through life’s reproductive transitions – while trying to conceive, during pregnancy and the postpartum period, and through perimenopause and beyond.
As experts in women’s mental health, we dreamed of developing a “one-stop-shop” for women struggling with mental health issues, a place where they can have all their mental health needs met under one roof.
In meeting the need for these services using online technology, BRIA (www.betterbria.com) has become the first-of-its-kind virtual mental healthcare platform for women in Ontario.
At BRIA, our mission is to ensure that women – including gender diverse individuals who are struggling with mental health issues while trying to conceive, during pregnancy, postpartum, and during perimenopause – in Ontario have timely access to high quality mental healthcare across the reproductive life stages. Currently, the experts in this field are congregated in the downtown core of major cities across Canada, leaving most areas with little-to-no access to specialized services. As a result, a large population struggles with mental health issues at vulnerable times of life.
Most psychiatric care in academic centres is restricted to individuals in local catchment areas who obtain referrals from physicians who are affiliated with these specific hospitals. With a large number of patient referrals and a limited number of psychiatrists with specialty training in women’s mental health, there is a bottleneck in the system which prolongs wait times.
Also, since patients must pay independently for most types of talk therapy or counselling, and there is not a clear way to find specialized therapists, the system can feel very fragmented and inaccessible as patients try to navigate it alone. The most effective mental healthcare consists of both talk therapy and medications, if needed, and the above systemic issues make this gold standard difficult to find for most people who are struggling.
At BRIA, we aim to create an efficient virtual solution that offers a trained Care Coordinator to triage patients and an array of mental health services, depending on a patient’s symptoms and stressors.
When the pandemic hit, it became clear that we do not require a bricks-and-mortar clinic in order to provide optimal mental healthcare. Telemedicine has become a highly acceptable and reliable way to assess and treat mental health concerns and eliminates the need for patients to travel long distances. There are significant cost savings for patients as virtual care relieves the stress associated with time off work, travel and parking, and the need to arrange child-care. Virtual care is optimal for most women and it has become their preferred medium for therapy, even in a post-pandemic world.
At BRIA, we offer an array of mental health services. Our Care Coordinator does an intake assessment to understand what a patient needs at a given point in time. Then, patients may be directed towards therapy – either individual, couples, or group counselling.
If needed, patients may be referred for a more in-depth assessment, including medication evaluation, with another mental health professional and a psychiatrist, or for a mid-life assessment, including hormone assessment, by an expert RN and a gynecologist.
BRIA experts offer experienced, parent-friendly and focused healthcare to support those who traditionally have challenges accessing a full suite of mental health and well-being services at these vulnerable stages. We also use measurement-based care to ensure that people are getting the care they need to address their concerns and that they are progressing.
BRIA MD services are all covered by OHIP. As is the case with therapies and non-MD health services in Ontario, people are required to use their insurance benefits or employee health benefits, or to pay directly for these services at BRIA. Most of our services are covered by popular insurance plans.