Developing Inclusive Access to Mental Health Services -

Developing Inclusive Access to Mental Health Services

Host: Anu Shukla,


Over the past two years, since the outbreak of COVID-19, awareness around mental health deterioration has rapidly increased through awareness and open dialogue across the internet.We started spending more time inside, glued to the boundless, fear-inducing information on the internet. We were isolated without the ability to connect and communicate with our community. Our standard outlets were closed off. 

For some communities, this meant a transition to other outlets — mostly telehealth (online video appointments with community supporters or therapists). However, for other communities — namely those more marginalized — the limited mental health treatment options were reduced even further. 

Sentari Minor, Head of Strategy at evolvedMD, notes the barriers of entry that existed prior to the pandemic and have only compounded. At the root of the barrier lives stigma, which ranges from men who feel weak asking for support to women who are the primary caregivers in their family and required to support rather than receive support.

The fact that most people within these diverse groups are also working shift jobs or multiple jobs means there is less time and lower funding for mental health support builds on those roots. Mental health services are generally surrounding American standard working hours, 9 am to 5 pm. When you’re unable to get away from your desk during work hours, or your paycheck is dependent on working 8 to 10 hours per day, taking time off to address mental health means losing money from your work shift while needing to pay extra for the actual services. 

Which brings us to the top level of the barrier: the actual cost for treatment — usually hovering around $150 – $200. Inaccessibility only grew when people needed portable video streaming, higher processing, and fast internet connection. Couple that with the well documented wealth disparity between white and non-white families, and you’ve got a general understand why mental health services are generally deemed as expendable in diverse groups. 

Mental health treatment is seen as a separate, luxury service compared to physical care and injuries. Nicola Brown, Founder of KOKORO, says most people aren’t considering mental health as part of whole body care — there is less priority even though the two are intrinsically connected.

However, there are positive moves in the mental health services space for marginalized communities. Embedding mental health practitioners in community spaces has proven to help those in diverse communities feel comfortable seeking help. 

Minor says evolvedMD’s model is based on this idea. By working with a network of therapists, they coordinate with primary care physicians to embed mental health professionals in the same building where someone would be receiving physical health care. This lowers the barrier of entry for services, immediately raises the trust between patient and therapist, and removes the complication that comes with finding mental health services. 

When the problem of finding time comes up, Brown encourages companies to meet employees where they are and foster a culture that supports a psychologically safe environment. 

“Nowadays, work is home and home is work” she says. “You need to see your employees as employees. Most [company leaders] lead with grand gestures. You need to slow down and see your employees as people, and meet them where they are.”

Minor also supports his team by taking frequent 1-on-1 meetings, leading with key questions:

  1. What am I doing to hamper your success?
  2. What could we be doing differently?
  3. How are you doing on a scale of 1-10, personally and professionally?

“I want to hear this because I want to know you’re alright,” he says, “because you’re going to show up to work as your whole person.

“It’s very hard for you to be compartmentalized and it’s actually not that healthy to be compartmentalized so how can we support you in the best way?”

Once a person understands they are able to get mental health support, the process needs to be as streamlined as possible so they don’t feel the weight, pressure, or frustration that could make an anxious or depressed person give up on the process altogether. 

Anu Shukla, Co-Founder and Executive Chairperson of, says that’s exactly what is trying to solve. 

By providing a 24/7 AI chatbot, anyone can inquire about services anytime that’s convenient for them while receiving quick and accurate responses. Not to mention, AI chatbots are non-judgemental — people who may feel in a very vulnerable situation do not need to interact with someone on the other end who could possibly be judging. 

“We’re supplementing people power in hospital and behavioral health facilities by providing answers to the general questions that most people ask,” Shukla says. “‘Do you take my insurance’, ‘what is the current wait time’, ‘can I schedule an appointment’, ‘do you treat this or that’ — the AI can easily be trained [to answer those questions].”

The conversation is only just starting. With an awareness of a trend comes exploration of solutions. There are now therapists embedded in hair salons and barbershops for simpler access. There is wider adoption of technology to support the workload strained people power in facilities. There are training and support systems for companies looking to improve their employee health and wellness. The changes are happening, encouraged by awareness. 

Watch the full webinar on-demand HERE

Key Takeaways

  1. Mental health services are not equitable to minority communities because communities have a built in stigma with mental health services.

  2. Integrating these services to primary care is a good way to help increase access

  3. Interim group therapy and community outreach programs are an intermediary step and can help address immediate needs 

  4. AI technology solutions for intelligent interactions and engagement can enhance accessibility is a HIPPA-compliant, AI-powered marketing chat solution that can be implemented at scale to improve engagement rates. Today, the company offers industry-leading authoring, webchat, and AI machine-learning capabilities to quickly and effectively convert more customers in healthcare, wellness, addiction, behavioral health, physical therapy and senior living centers.’s new Integrated Analytics Dashboard provides a comprehensive view of chat campaigns across multiple messaging channels such as web and Facebook Messenger. For more information, visit

evolvedMD is leading the integration of behavioral health services in modern primary care. Uniquely upfront and ongoing, our distinctive model not only places but embeds behavioral health specialists onsite at your practice. We offer an economically viable and better way to integrate behavioral health that ultimately drives improved patient outcomes. 

KOKORO is an integrated health platform dedicated to whole human wellness that empowers leaders with evidence-based tools, a like-minded community, and feedback for optimizing their health—and their lives. KOKORO’s corporate customers tell us our solution is extremely effective at helping employees take an active role in recharging their batteries and deeply releasing stress, leading to a more productive workplace and healthier, happier people.