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Can Data Help Close the Mental Health Gap For Low-Income Youth? This Psychologist Startup Founder Says Yes

6/12/18, 12:00 AM

Mental health is in the spotlight right now, particularly in light of recent events. The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that approximately one in five adults experiences mental illness in a given year, and one in five youth aged 13–18 experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. And the early years are critical, as half of all chronic mental illness begins by age 14.

Those numbers inflate drastically when examining low-income populations. Mental health disorders contribute to school dropouts, suicides and incarceration, at a staggering cost: over one-third of students with a mental health condition age 14­–21 and older will drop out of school.

Mental health issues stem from a variety and combination of factors — genetic, environmental and behavioral — but undoubtedly, require highly-trained, personalized mental health care to generate positive progression and outcomes. Unfortunately, the current healthcare system targeted at low-income populations often results in fragmented and shallow care.

Psychologist Dr. Yared Alemu is trying to change these outcomes with the help of data analytics. For over a decade, Alemu worked closely with and studied the publicly-funded mental healthcare system and saw firsthand how it failed to solve the issues seen in children in low-income communities.

“Innovation in the behavioral healthcare ecosystem, focused on the most vulnerable and the least fortunate individuals, has been considered high-risk and attracted limited technological innovation, funding and expert attention,” says Alemu. “The ongoing lack of innovation has contributed to an epidemic of mental health disorders that incapacitated youth from low resource communities.”

Alemu believes that the first problem is a lack of measurement. Mental health professionals dispatched by government-funded organizations to these communities fail to track outcomes over time, resulting in a dearth of data around what does or doesn’t work.

In 2016, Alemu founded TQIntelligence, a data analytics health platform specifically geared towards mental health professionals. The dashboard uses a clinically-validated 26-question survey taken by the provider, the parent and the child immediately following treatment.

Rather than focusing on diagnosis, which Alemu says can be inconsistent and ineffective, the TQIntelligence platform tracks severity and functionality of the patients.

6/12/18, 12:00 AM

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