Twin Cities entrepreneur creates app to make mental heath care more accessible

For years, Luke Wendlandt struggled with the negative effects of overworking. As he juggled a corporate job and earning multiple degrees, he ended up with panic attacks, issues with anxiety and addiction.

His journey through mental health wellness led to shifts in his lifestyle — and career. Two years ago, he launched Cadre, a platform he hopes will help others dealing with similar problems.

The app has live and on-demand content for people seeking mental health counseling and tips. Experts in the videos talk about issues such as handling grief, depression and addiction.

Cadre includes a community feed — similar to Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn — where users can engage, like and share content. People can also book consultations with wellness experts.

Wendlandt’s company won the Emerging Startup and Boostrapper awards at the 2022 Minnesota Startups Awards during Twin Cities Startup Week. For the remainder of 2023 and heading into 2024, the app is free to both individuals and employers for use as an employee benefit.

Even before that, though, he had made a shift to the health and wellness field. He left the corporate world behind to join the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, a Minnesota mental health and substance abuse treatment nonprofit, which allowed him to visualize an entrepreneurial venture in the treatment industry.

“I took a leap of faith in the health and human services field to ultimately figure out more about myself and figure out who I am, what I am, why I am and really to be devoted to mission and purpose behind the work that I’m doing 40-plus hours a week,” he said.

Before Cadre, Wendlandt co-founded Northstar Behavioral Health, a St. Paul-based organization that runs treatment programs for those dealing with opioid and stimulant addictions. Here’s what he had to say about starting Cadre, his journey and the challenges of starting a business.

Q: What gave you the idea for Cadre?

A: My goal was to create a platform that would allow individuals at scale to be able to get the information that they need when they want it and how they want it, that would work for them in their journey of mental health and wellness.

Some individuals would like information on trauma, grief, loss. Some individuals would like information on substance abuse, some specifically to mental health symptoms. Others, it may be in regards to fitness, meditation, mindfulness. What ended up happening is this just kind of all evolved into this one platform that I call the smorgasbord of mental health and wellness. We want to be the all-in-one app that someone could use instead of having seven to 10 apps on their phone.

I had a little extra time on my hands during the pandemic, like probably some of us did. I just went all in and developed this app called Cadre.

Q: What is the biggest challenge in trying to start a company?

A: The very first thing that you need to have is the right mind-set. Sure, there are your ideas, your vision, understanding what your mission, vision and values are. I get all that. That’s business principles 101. But what it comes down to is the entrepreneur, the startup, the leader, the founder that is going to have a mind-set that no matter how hard it gets, you’ll never quit. You’ll always adapt. You’ll always persevere. My job as a leader is I have to bring the culture, I have to bring the energy, and I have to make sure that people understand that no matter how hard it gets, we’ll be all right.

Q: How are you using tech to make mental help more accessible?

A: Let’s use substance abuse as an example. Of 100% of the people who need help, only 10% will actually get help. That could be because maybe they’re rural demographics, access to care, all the other things. My job is to be able to build a bridge for the rest of those 90%.

Maybe it’s somebody who doesn’t even know if they have a problem yet. Maybe it’s education information that we’re sharing with somebody where they’re like, you know, I’m having too many glasses of wine at night, and I need to be informed about myself and my patterns and my behaviors and my habits.

We need — as a society, but us as a business — to ensure that we allow 100% of the patient population, the world, the demographic to be able to understand where they are in their mental health and wellness journey.

In our brick-and-mortar business, North Star Behavioral Health, for example, we can help maybe 200 people a day, which is awesome, but that’s a low number compared to the large problem and for mental health and wellness at the same or similar vein.

Q: Has starting Cadre given you a sense of fulfillment?

A: This is truly what I live for. Maybe you have your way of mental health and wellness, and other people have theirs, but for me, it’s the light bulb moment of an individual on the app, an individual out in the world that goes, “Wow, this is it for me. I get it now. I understand.”

I liken it to when I suffered with anxiety and debilitating panic attacks. When all of a sudden, I really knew what was happening to me and what I needed to do to get better. When those two things clicked, then it was just me putting in the work.


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