With the rise in homelessness and the multitude of mass shootings, many have begun to question the country’s ability to adequately treat mental health. But it’s not just the extreme cases that deserve attention: in reality, 50 percent of Americans will receive a mental health diagnosis during their lifetime.
One of the main challenges is finding a therapist who matches an individual’s needs and personality, says Dr. Sigal Saar Ben-Ari (no relation), cofounder of Kodu Care. Kodu Care is an online platform that facilitates individualized therapist matching and ongoing follow-up to increase successful outcomes. “Mental health therapists work in a fragmented space with no continuity of care and little to no visibility on outcomes or follow-up,” she says. “This is a problem across the U.S., but Washington is notorious for being one of the most problematic states in terms of prevalence of mental illness and lower rates of access to care.”
Ben-Ari joined hands with Mauricio Gonzalez de la Fuente, a former general manager at Microsoft, to create the platform. “If you are in need of a therapist, you should be heard, and it should be super easy for you to get the help you need,” Ben-Ari says. “Due to stigma, it’s difficult to ask your friend for therapist recommendations, and we bridge this gap by increasing access and providing case management to ensure patients get the care they need. In most cases we locate a therapist within a single workday.”
Born in Israel, Ben-Ari started off at the Technion, then worked in Finland and Japan before traveling to New York for her Ph.D. in health care informatics and to the Wharton School for her MBA. She went on to work for Medtronics, a large health care company headquartered in Minneapolis, before deciding to settle down in Seattle with her husband and two kids. Ben-Ari belongs to Congregation Beth Shalom and sits on the board of Hadassah, where she is in charge of social media operations.
“Most of us run into mental bumps in life, which impact our well-being and health,” Ben-Ari says. “We hope that with our patient-management platform and mental health network, we can provide the emotional support and care we all need from time to time.”