Accessing mental health resources isn’t easy and finding culturally competent ones even more so. That’s one reason among many for the mental health services disparities that exist in BIPOC communities. According to the American Psychiatric Association, nearly 70 percent of Black and Hispanic people and over 80 percent of Asian people that have a mental illness do not receive care.
The Covid-19 pandemic further compounded these disparities thanks to a lack of access to telehealth services and a shortage of mental health professionals to meet rising demand. One company trying to close that gap is Hurdle, a D.C.-based digital mental health platform focused on providing culturally intentional care to BIPOC communities. To serve more BIPOC communities, the company recently announced its expansion into California, Texas and Massachusetts with more states to come. The company was previously limited to serving users in Maryland, Virginia and D.C.
Hurdle is like most digital mental health platforms in that customers sign up online, fill out a survey and are matched with a telehealth therapist. What sets the company apart is its dedication to addressing the impact of systemic racism on mental health and mitigating the internal biases of many traditional therapy offices.
All of Hurdle’s therapists undergo evidence-based cultural humility and responsiveness training in order to give culturally competent care to their clients. The company says its approach is effective, with clients continuing care through Hurdle for two to three times longer than the national historic average. In 2021, the company completed nearly 5,000 therapy sessions with members of BIPOC communities.
“We’ve seen overwhelming evidence that our clients continue to benefit from our unique programs, and we’ve had to scale Hurdle quickly to accommodate the increased demand for mental health services tailored to people of color,” Hurdle founder and CEO Kevin Dedner said in a statement. “As more health plans and employers are starting to ask what they can do to support these groups, we will be there to fill that space and continue to grow.”
The expansion announcement follows a rapid year of growth for Hurdle. The company says its number of therapists on the platform grew by more than 100 percent in 2021. Its own employee headcount also increased five-fold. In 2021, Hurdle also partnered with Hopelab, a social innovation lab focused on behavior-change tech innovation.
Hurdle expects continued growth in 2022 with a goal of 20,000 teletherapy sessions conducted by year end. The company also plans to further expand its services in states like Tennessee, Minnesota, Illinois, Georgia and New York by Q2 and hopes to be licensed in half of the U.S. by 2023.
“We continue to be concerned about what we are learning about the mental health status of Americans, especially as it relates to the disparities among members of the BIPOC community,” Dedner said in a statement. “We feel a great sense of responsibility to make sure that our services are available to as many people as possible and to create more reliable outcomes through evidence-based treatments.”