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Struggling with gambling disorder? Birches Health has you covered

March 8, 2024

Struggling with gambling disorder? Birches Health has you covered

Gambling person

By Lauryn Luderman

One percent of Americans suffer from gambling disorders, and Tom Shoemaker used to be one of them.

Thanks to easily accessible and cost-friendly resources, as well as a good support system, Shoemaker took control over his addiction.

“Just knowing how hard it was for me and the toll problem gambling took on me mentally, physically, emotionally in my relationships, I think I needed a lot of help from different people and I got a lot of help from different people,” Shoemaker said. “I’m grateful for that.”

Passionate about helping others, Shoemaker began working with Birches Health — a startup company that aims to assist those in need of addiction counseling. After a short time in the role, Shoemaker pursued an alternate route, but continues to eagerly support their mission.

Birches Health provides addiction help to those struggling with gambling, sports betting, day trading, cryptocurrency, video gaming and pornography, according to its website. However, with the growing frequency of gambling, sports, etc., Birches Health’s resources are more necessary than ever.

Quinn Donaldson, head of growth initiatives at Birches Health, said their program is more affordable and accessible than most competitors.

“We’ve established multiple ways of getting in touch with us from calls, emails, referral flows on our website that we distribute and make available,” Donaldson said. “Our job is to be there for folks when they are ready to have the conversation.”

Birches Health offers resources to all people, but Donaldson said his priorities are partnerships with universities across the country and greek life. He said based on a recent study, 50% of college students have tried gambling and 20% have indulged in sports betting specifically.

Shoemaker, who used to be part of that 20%, said because access is easy and those under 25 years old are so comfortable with technology, the typical college-age person is more apt to fall under the spell of gambling addiction.

According to Forbes, sports betting is legal in 38 states — including Washington D.C. — and 29 of those states have legalized online betting. Sportsbooks like Fanatics, BetMGM, FanDual, Caesars and Draftkings are some of the largest platforms for online sports gambling.

“We’re used to being on our phone, we can easily get access to all these apps,” Shoemaker said. “Nowadays it’s just like you can sign up for 10 different apps, you can get free money on all of them and then you can just start loading stuff.”

Just one calendar year into legalized sports betting (Jan. - Dec. 2023), 97% of betters in Ohio used online and/or mobile gambling placing a total of $7.4 billion into the cause, as shown in the 2023 Ohio Casino Control Commision Report.

Here lies the problem.

Shoemaker said betting companies don’t make money off of once-in-a-blue-moon gamblers — rather they exploit those who are vulnerable, problem gamblers.  

“The sad truth is sports gambling companies don’t make money off of your average better just betting low amounts not too often. They make money off of problem gamblers,” Shoemaker said.

And with the growing concern of gambling addiction, the more there is a need for services like those Birches Health offers. According to Donaldson, it’s simple.

Birches Health utilizes a telehealth model aiming to treat those in need with ease. Donaldson said the company sanctions itself by providing health on a “case-by-case basis” with lots of flexibility, meaning there is no certain criteria to receive support.

“Some people are more focused on addressing a treatment need, others are focused on more awareness and trying to use that to identify where there may be needs — may present needs for more treatment intervention,” Donaldson said. “It really depends on who we’re working with, but the flexibility of our model I think people really like.”

Additionally, Donaldson said Birches Health works with many insurance companies to ensure affordability of care, but true pricing is dependent on the person and help received.

If you’re worried you may be on the brink of a gambling addiction, or are already there, Donaldson said to begin with Birches Health’s minute-long assessment, schedule a consultation, read one of the articles on the website and be honest with yourself about what you’re willing to lose.

For Shoemaker, he said if he knew of a resource like Birches when going through his struggles with gambling addiction, it would have saved him relationships, time, stress and certainly money.

Donaldson said if you take that step, health is right around the corner. Birches Health strives on being responsive and engaging no matter the case. Click here for more information on Birches Health.

  • For judgment-free, one-on-one help, contact Tom Shoemaker at shoetom@umich.edu.
  • For the gambling addiction hotline, call 1-800-662-4357.
  • For the problem gambling Reddit page, a resource that helped Shoemaker, click here.