Kaiser Adds Ginger App to Mental Health Ecosystem

Kaiser Permanente has expanded its portfolio of online mental health options with the addition of emotional support coaching from Headspace Health’s Ginger app.

All eligible adult Kaiser Permanente members can now use their smartphone to connect with Ginger’s emotional support coaches 24/7 — at no cost and with no referral or appointment needed. The confidential, one-on-one texting sessions provide support in coping with common challenges such as managing stress or getting better sleep.  The health system stresses, however, that digital self-help tools are not a replacement for treatment services provided by Kaiser Permanente’s mental healthcare clinicians.

“Kaiser Permanente selected Ginger to help provide nonclinical emotional support coaching and expand the continuum of digital mental health tools we make available at no cost to all eligible adult members,” said Don Mordecai, M.D., psychiatrist and national leader for mental health and wellness at Kaiser Permanente, in a statement. “The Ginger offering sits between our self-care offerings and our clinical care, providing personalized text-based support from trained Ginger coaches to our members in the moment when they need it the most, anytime day or night.”

In early 2022, a survey conducted on behalf of the American Psychological Association found that a large percentage of Americans reported high stress levels due to the financial impacts from inflation, the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, and global uncertainty. Kaiser said mental health resources like the Ginger app, used on a self-guided basis or as complements to clinical support, can help people build resilience, set goals, and take meaningful steps toward improving mental health and wellness. Members can use the Ginger app to:

  • Discuss goals, share challenges, and create an action plan with their coach
  • Get personalized, interactive skill-building tools from a library of more than 200 clinically validated activities and resources
  • View recaps from each texting session, track their progress, and work with their coach to adjust action plans as needed

In 2020, Kaiser Permanente added the first two apps to its digital self-care portfolio: Calm, a tool for mindfulness meditation, and myStrength, designed to help people improve well-being and enhance sleep or mood. Kaiser Permanente physicians and therapists also have the ability to refer their patients to these and other evidenced-based mental health and wellness apps through the organization’s electronic health record system.

Kaiser Permanente members can text with a coach using the Ginger app for 90 days per year. After the 90 days, members can continue to access the other services available on the Ginger app for the remainder of the year at no cost.

Kaiser Permanente has been dealing with a strike by its Northern California mental health work force over exhausting working conditions and long waits for patients, and it is not alone in facing the work force shortage. Mark Ghaly, M.D., M.P.H., secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency, recently told the publication CalMatters that the number of licensed behavioral health providers in the state increased by 20 percent between 2016 and 2020. But that’s been offset by an increase in demand he calls “really unprecedented.”

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