Startup makes mental health care accessible, inclusive for communities of color and low-income youth
World Mental Health Day is this Saturday, October 10, and the American Heart Association, the world’s leading nonprofit organization, recognizes the importance of mental health. Mental health affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.
A growing body of research indicates there could be a physiological connection between mental health and heart health, and that poor mental health also could influence heart disease. For many young people in communities where access to health care is lacking – including mental health care – there is growing need for reliable and affordable mental health counseling.
Ashley Edwards, a Newark-based entrepreneur, and leader who was named to the Forbes magazine “Under 30” list in 2018, is keenly aware of this gap. She started her company MindRight Health to address this need by meeting young people where they are by providing mental health coaching over text message.
“We can no longer ignore the impacts of systemic racism and intergenerational trauma on the mental health of our communities. Our funding from American Heart Association will help us ensure that everyone has the opportunity to feel seen, heard, and ultimately heal,” said Edward, Founder and CEO of MindRight Health.
Designed for underserved communities, members of MindRight Health receive a personal team of trauma-informed coaches, supervised by licensed clinicians, who proactively support them. MindRight breaks historical barriers of access to care and mental health stigma by providing a continuum of culturally responsive, nonclinical support.
According to Edwards, unlike crisis hotlines, MindRight Health coaches proactively check in with teens daily, reaching them on both their good and bad days, helping them develop positive coping skills.
The American Heart Association will fund MindRight Health as part of the recently announced Bernard J. Tyson Impact Fund, which aims to honor the legacy of Mr. Tyson, the late chairman and chief executive officer of Kaiser Permanente and long-standing member of the Association’s National Board.
The goal of the Bernard J. Tyson Impact Fund is to reduce the social and economic barriers to health equity by investing in local social entrepreneurs, small businesses and organizations within under-resourced communities to help them scale their sustainable solutions addressing social determinants of health – the environmental and social conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age.
“Most of our current members live in Newark, New Jersey and Washington, DC. With the American Heart Association and the Bernard J. Tyson Impact Fund’s support, we plan to launch community health partnerships in New York City to expand our reach to more people in need,” Edwards added.
The Bernard J. Tyson Impact Fund received an initial anchor investment of $1M in New York City from the Elizabeth Elting Foundation Halo Fund (Elizabeth Elting and Michael Burlant) to invest in social enterprises within under-resourced communities thereby shifting the funding paradigm to small, community, minority- and women-led businesses and non-profits.
“I am thrilled that the Bernard J. Tyson Impact Fund chose to invest to amplify the work of women-led organizations, like MindRight Health, and Ashley Edwards who serves as a force for change in the New York City community. We need to eradicate systemic barriers for those society has too often shut out,” said Liz Elting, founder and CEO of the Elizabeth Elting Foundation. “It is such an honor to work with the American Heart Association to elevate organizations that will help drive solutions to overcome health disparities, empower women leaders of color, overcome the stigmas and challenges of mental health, and give all people their best opportunity for a long and healthy life.”
Growing the Bernard J. Tyson Impact Fund will allow the American Heart Association to support more community-led solutions nationwide. If you’re interested in accelerating community transformation alongside the American Heart Association, email BJTImpact Fund@heart.org.
Diego is the Communications Director for the American Heart Association in New York City. He loves sharing powerful stories that inspire people to take control of their health.