A Yale Psychiatry Residency Program graduate and faculty member has launched Nema Health, a virtual platform for trauma and PTSD care.
Sofia Noori, MD, MPH, clinical instructor in the Yale Department of Psychiatry, started Nema Health shortly after graduating from residency in 2021.
From her experiences in training, Noori identified a shortage in trauma and PTSD community treatment options, which spurred her desire to create an affordable and effective treatment program for survivors. She interviewed trauma researchers and clinicians, went to PTSD support groups, read studies, and drew on personal experiences to develop an intensive and evidence-based care model intended to provide rapid relief for survivors.
Her first pilot in the community brought 15 patients to her online service. “The outcomes were incredible. We were seeing people get better in 2-3 weeks,” Noori said. “We knew we had to do something to increase access to Nema’s program.”
Fast forward two years and Nema Health is on the cusp of expansion after raising $4.1 million in venture startup funding to provide services in the northeast. Currently, Nema offers its care model to survivors in Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey.
Noori and her team of trauma-focused providers – including psychiatrists, licensed therapists, and peer mentors – are busy seeing patients who have suffered from traumatic events like sexual assault, child abuse, combat, pregnancy loss, medical trauma, gun violence, and more.
The company partners with healthcare insurers to ensure coverage of its evidence-based trauma recovery program. Insurers are increasingly recognizing the costs of untreated PTSD, which sparked interest to cover Nema’s care model.
Currently, Nema Health’s services are fully covered by United Healthcare, Optum, Connecticare, Oxford, and Oscar health plans.
People can recover from PTSD unlike other chronic medical disorders, and Noori said her company’s approach is to treat people through a rapid recovery model that helps patients get better fast.
“We do therapy with a person every day until they recover,” she said. “Patients want to get better from PTSD. They can typically recall the day their symptoms started after a trauma, and they just want support in feeling better.”
After an initial evaluation, patients undergo daily treatment with a first line treatment for PTSD, typically Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT). That continues for an average of 3-4 weeks. After this intensive care, called “massed treatment” in the research literature, patients maintain access to Nema support resources for up to a year to sustain long-term recovery. All services are provided online.
Clinicians also consult and educate the patient’s family so they are familiar with the treatment plan and can provide support at home.
“Patients improve in a matter of weeks at Nema. The impact to individual lives, to communities and to the healthcare system go hand in hand,” said Mariam Malik, COO and co-founder of Nema Health. “The value to patients, their loved ones, and insurers all align when a survivor is treated by Nema. It’s an intensive outpatient level of care, but in the home and purpose-built for trauma. It’s incredible to hear of people getting their lives back, even if they have been struggling for over a decade.”
Marlene Weisel, LPC, staff trauma therapist at Nema, said the company is on a mission to make evidence-based treatment widely available not just to veterans, but now to the general populations, and that clinicians are helping survivors live better-quality lives and empowering them to be “proud survivors.”
She feels valued among staff members who support each other “in a startup environment where things are moving quickly. The ongoing cheerleading among coworkers creates a great work environment,” she said.
Noori, who co-founded the trainee-led Women’s Mental Health Conference at Yale, has herself suffered from PTSD after an assault in college. In addition, Noori’s close family members survived the Vietnam War. Those experiences have fueled her ambition to expand the company’s services so all survivors can begin to feel better.
Lashauna Cutts LCSW, Nema’s clinical director, said the goal is to offer services in all states, accept all insurances, and eliminate racial and socio-economic barriers to quality trauma treatment.
“The leadership team at Nema is led by clinicians and survivors. We could have done any other type of work that may have been easier and certainly more lucrative, but we decided to focus on PTSD so that people could stop coping and start thriving in the aftermath of trauma,” she said.
Noori agrees: “When something traumatic happens to people, we want them to think of Nema Health and trust that they are getting the best possible care.”