The Current Reality

Despite being one of the world’s wealthiest regions, 1 in 11 Bay Area residents’ lives in poverty.

With poverty comes depression. It’s a no-brainer. A Gallup survey showed that 31% of Americans in poverty say they have at some point been diagnosed with depression compared with 16% of the general population. And women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression as men are.

Single women of color have the highest rates of poverty in the country. Though Latina and African-American women ages 18-64 are only 9% of the Bay Area population, they represent 16% (131,595) of Bay Area residents living in poverty.

These women have the highest rates of depression in the country. And they are also the least likely to receive mental health care.

Government funds for mental health care go primarily to severe cases, so resources for mild-moderate mental health issues are limited. Because of this, it takes numerous phone calls, several meetings to determine eligibility, and up to three months to make an initial appointment to access counseling in Alameda County. Depressed women don’t have the emotional resolve to stick with that process.

Compounding those obstacles is the fact that even though private practice psychotherapists can be approved to treat women on Medi-Cal, Medicare or HealthPAC, and many of them would like to provide great care for this population, Bay Area overhead costs make it virtually cost prohibitive because government reimbursements are half of what a private client would pay.

The select few who do manage to find care often face insurmountable barriers to remain in it. There is a strong stigma attached to mental health care in the African American community. Women fear their children will be taken from them if they seek the help they need.

We’ve connected all these dots.

Our Innovative Solution

We’re applying new thinking to the unresolved social issues that disproportionately impact women. Thomas Edison said, “There’s a way to do this better – find it.” Our revolutionary solution goes beyond the historical approach to poverty — providing basic needs like food and shelter — and considers the equally debilitating roadblocks of depression, anxiety, trauma, and chronic hopelessness, so that we can affect true and lasting change.

Here’s how:

We provide easily accessible psychotherapy for low-income women. Our business model provides infrastructure and support services for a team of clinicians who agree to treat clients in our facility who meet our eligibility requirements (women age 16-55 on Medi-Cal, Medicare or HealthPAC) — at no cost to the clinicians. The clinicians perform their own billing.

We have also removed the evidenced-based barriers that keep this population from seeking and remaining in treatment:

  • Our building is secure and located in safe downtown San Leandro adjacent to East Oakland, which has the highest rate of poverty in the Bay Area.
  • We are two blocks from San Leandro B.A.R.T. station and easily accessible to major bus lines.
  • We offer week day/evening and Saturday appointments.
  • We promote professional counseling, because with a strong stigma surrounding mental health care, it’s easier for women to accept the offer of “life coaching to help you become the woman you were meant to be,” instead of “psychotherapy for mental health issues.”

Another significant part of our solution is to pursue these women so the burden is not on them to reach out for help (which they rarely do). We walk their streets and go to the agencies, clinics, and business they frequent to offer our services.

Psychotherapy is an effective tool that helps middle and upper-income women experience joy and fulfillment in their lives. We’re making those same tools easily accessible to low-income women to help them break out of their cycle of poverty and not just survive, but thrive — because when women are well their families and communities follow.