Josh Bruno has now attended five funerals for friends who've died of drug overdoses.
Even with a background in healthcare, Bruno said he's struggled to figure out how to help. The deaths prompted him to spend six months learning about addiction treatment, volunteering at rehabilitation centers and attending Alcoholics Anonymous and other support-group meetings.
What he found was a disconnect between the treatment paths out there and the patients who needed them.
To help, Bruno's been building a company called Path over the last year. The startup aims to works with employers to connect their workers to addiction treatment services. Path is set to start working with companies in 2020, connecting patients with their existing benefits, such as doctors and counselors who specialize in treating addiction. It's similar to startups that have sprung up to help people navigate fertility benefits.
So far, the company's raised $5.35 million from investors including Upfront Ventures, Meridian Street Capital, and Sequoia Consulting Group's venture fund, as well as former heads of benefits at Disney, Chevron, US Foods, and Cisco.
Bruno previously founded Hometeam, a startup that provides in-home care for seniors. Before that, he was an investor at Bain Capital Ventures.
Bruno has been keen to work with employers who have said publicly that they're looking to tackle addiction. From there, the team will set an initial meeting. To start, Path will be working with a handful of employers throughout 2020, Bruno said.
"We use this in first meetings to really gauge to see if it's a priority for an employer," Bruno said.
Here's the pitch deck Bruno uses in that initial conversation to help convince more employers to rethink how they support their workers.
Bruno said he sees conversations with employers as setting up partnerships rather than selling a service. That way, Path can tailor its services based on what the employer already has in place.
Then, the presentation goes straight into the investors and advisors helping Path shape its approach to its benefits. "These are people spending hours a week with us," Bruno said.
From there, the team lays out national statistics about substance use disorder, including that it affects one in 10 people, a statistic that holds true for those who are employed as well as those who are unemployed.
Bruno also contextualizes the significance of substance use disorder within mental health. Substance use disorders make up about 1/3 of employer mental health issues. As employers focus their efforts on improving mental health within their workforces, it'll be key to keep that portion in mind.
After laying out the impact of substance use disorders on society and for employers, Bruno then turns his attention to what patients experience when they seek out treatment. That can mean long wait times, trouble finding doctors willing to take insurance, or difficulty getting the right kind of treatment.
About halfway through the presentation, Bruno begins to introduce Path's services: coordinating care through the help of social workers who specialize in addiction, compiling networks of addiction-certified doctors, and reporting outcomes information.
Path then breaks out more details about how it works with patients to get them care.
The next slide, Bruno said, is handy for striking up conversation with employers. Many experience issues with some of the ongoing elements Path aims to help with, like making sure patients go to psychotherapy, can find the right doctors, and have access to medication.
Next, Path can show off its technology. "This slide is the tech razzle dazzle," Bruno said.
The hope is that employers can use Path's services to get a handle on the cost of out-of-network substance use disorder treatments while getting healthier employees.
Bruno then opens up to discussion, starting with a key question to the employers: "Is that a priority?”