The COVID-19 pandemic brought to light a huge gap between mental health needs and capacities in the United States, but it also accelerated the use of technology to deliver those services in more convenient ways. Nowhere are these gaps and opportunities more obvious than in providing user-friendly ways for ethnic communities to access the services they need.
Sevelyn is a timely 2020 startup based in Des Moines, Iowa, that provides digital mental health services to people of Latino heritage. In so doing, it takes advantage of both a marketing opportunity and a significant need of an important but often neglected American demographic.
Opportunities and Disparities
At over 62 million people, Hispanic-Americans make up some 19% of the population of the United States—a huge untapped market for many industries. But more crucially, this is a population that has similar mental health needs as the general population but unequal access to mental health services.
There are many reasons for this disparity. Cost is a factor for families with lower incomes or lacking medical insurance. Language and cultural barriers can be an issue, especially considering the great cultural diversity within and between Latin American societies. There is also a persistent social stigma against seeking mental health services that makes Latinos less likely to seek help from providers.
These opportunities and disparities were awaiting a visionary leader. A leader like Carlos Arguello.
Founders with a Vision
Carlos Arguello, one of the co-founders of Sevelyn, got an early start as an entrepreneurship. Starting in middle school and growing through high school and college, he began to find opportunities to translate for Spanish-speakers for the school system, hospitals, police and the courts. This gave him great experience in starting a business and helped him pay his way through college. By 2014, he graduated from MIT with a degree in Strategy and Innovation.
Carlos began to think about how to use his knowledge of business, translation, and technology in a way that would benefit his community. He developed a vision for providing the Latino community with licensed, board-certified therapists and psychologists who are not only bilingual but have deep fluency in Latino cultures, values, and the needs of their community.
His idea started to take off in 2020 at the venture school of the University of Iowa. By 2021, it received a round of Pre-Seed funding by the Iowa Startup Accelerator and the Techstars Iowa Accelerator.
Sevelyn keeps their clients in the driver’s seat, offering them the chance to speak with a psychologist, therapist, counselor, coach, social worker, or other professional depending upon their needs and the type of services they feel comfortable receiving. Each of Sevelyn’s care providers must speak Spanish fluently, be licensed in their home country, and have a minimum of 3 years of professional experience to work for the organization.
Therapy is provided online through a secure, encrypted platform that gives clients great flexibility in scheduling sessions without having to arrange childcare or transportation, while preserving their anonymity. Sevelyn’s rates are significantly lower than the market standard for these types of services, at only 25% of the traditional rates. These conditions go a long way toward overcoming many of the barriers that have historically inhibited some Latinos from seeking mental and emotional support.
Young, but Promising
Sevelyn is still quite a young company but has tremendous promise. There is no doubt Arguello and his team are tapping into a great need in a way that has potential to connect the Latino community to mental health services more effectively than ever before. Moreover, it’s a model that potentially could be replicated for other ethnic groups across the country and around the world. This is a company you’ll want to keep your eye on.
To learn more about Sevelyn, check out their site at this link.