Teletherapy and mental health resources for under-served communities
Lennie J. Carter traces his latest project back to his youth in Brooklyn’s Brownsville neighborhood.
“I watched friends and neighbors struggle with issues that could have been addressed with timely access to information and caregivers,” he says. “But people who need mental health services the most tend to be those who don’t have the access.”
He founded TruCircle to meet this need, developing computer and mobile apps that provide mental health information and connections with licensed mental health professionals.
Carter’s “mobile health” solutions focus on four core components: stigma, access, cost, and cultural competence. They aim to dispel myths about mental health and social therapy, and to show people in need that help is out there.
“I want users to recognize themselves and their neighborhoods, and identify folks that can relate and them through challenges,” he says.
Carter comes from a business and technology background, including over a decade of previous startup experience. His own experience of grief after his mother’s death prompted him to explore how digital tools might aggregate disparate information and services.
While the solutions he’s developing can work for various kinds of communities, they’re designed around the neighborhoods he knows best—neighborhoods that mirror the healthcare disparities in Brownsville.
“What drives stigma in these communities is other people see you going into that building, going to see that doctor,” he says. “I want to help people find information and make connections wherever they feel secure.”
TruCircle won mentoring and support from the Neighborhood Start Fund and the Dream Big Foundation, both of which target entrepreneurs in underserved communities. More recently, the company earned a spot in the Digital Health Breakthrough Network’s spring 2017 class.
Joining the network and working with the HITLAB team to pilot TruCircle web and mobile apps with actual therapists and patient populations is particularly important to Carter, given that pilot testing and validation is key to any successful startup.
“This program will help me adopt a healthcare point of view and research methods I might not have adopted on my own,” he says.