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Simone Biles and Mental Health Start-Up Cerebral Cut Ties

Simone Biles and Mental Health Start-Up Cerebral Cut Ties

Simone Biles on the floor
The high-profile gymnast’s quiet departure from Cerebral comes during a difficult year for the telehealth company

US gymnast Simone Biles and mental health start-up Cerebral have ended their partnership, The Wall Street Journal reports. The quiet departure of Biles from Cerebral is yet another stumbling block for the telehealth company this year.

Biles joined the digital mental health platform as Chief Impact Officer in 2021, the same year Cerebral had raised $300 million in a funding round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2.

Simone Biles rose to prominence as a mental health advocate and the face of Cerebral by sharing her personal struggles. Biles, who has 32 Olympic and World Championship medals, revealed she had been experiencing “The Twisties,” a serious psychological phenomenon that gymnasts can experience. The condition, which causes disorientation during mid-air moves, prompted her decision to withdraw from the 2021 Olympic team final. 

Aside from the Twisties, Biles has openly discussed her issues with anxiety, ADHD, and revealed that she is a Dr. Larry Nassar sexual assault survivor.

Biles’ departure is yet another setback for the San Francisco start-up, which has had a turbulent year.

The telehealth company, founded in 2020, came under fire for its prescribing practices earlier this spring, with the US Department of Justice launching an investigation into its prescribing methods. Cerebral has said it hasn’t broken any laws and that the company is cooperating with the investigation.

After it was revealed that Cerebral had received a subpoena regarding possible violations of the Controlled Substance Act, Kyle Robertson, Cerebral co-founder and CEO, was ousted by the board. David Mou, Cerebral’s president and Chief Medical officer, was then named CEO of the telehealth company.

Robertson has alleged that he was pressured by investors to push ADHD stimulants and believes his forced exit was an effort to make him the scapegoat for the investigations, an allegation that Cerebral has denied.

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David Mou-at Stat Summit 2022
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Since taking over as CEO of Cerebral, Mou has said the telehealth company is striving to be seen as a high quality, high performing mental health system. “We’re doubling and tripling down on clinical quality,” Mou told MindSite News in July. 

While Cerebral attempted to demonstrate the advantages of making mental health care more accessible, CVS and Walmart decided to move their pharmacies away from the telehealth company this year. Both CVS and Walmart announced they would no longer fill controlled substance prescriptions, like Adderall, issued by Cerebral and Done Health, another telehealth company that focuses on ADHD treatment.  

Additionally, a former Cerebral VP, Matthew Truebe, alleges he was fired after complaining about unethical practices, including prescribing stimulants as a retention strategy. Truebe filed a lawsuit in California state court earlier this year. 

In October, the digital mental health company announced that it would lay off 20% of its staff, citing an “ongoing transformation program.” All of this comes at a time when some telehealth companies are attempting to lobby for a rule change that would allow telehealth startups to write prescriptions for controlled substances.

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