We aim to elevate mental health as a public sector strategy to disrupt poverty.
We work with government partners in the U.S. to advance family mental health as a pathway to economic and social mobility, thereby interrupting the cycle of intergenerational poverty.
And we call ourselves a Policy Lab because, in carrying out this mission, we:
1. develop innovative programs and strategies,
2. help governments customize and adopt them, and
3. study how much it helps families and taxpayers.
Why are we elevating mental health specifically?
Unaddressed mental illness can keep opportunity out of reach.
And mental health can unlock it.
For far too long, government approaches to reducing poverty have relegated mental health as an afterthought. But the experiences of people in poverty show, and research increasingly corroborates, that mental health matters – a lot. Regardless of how many job training programs are available—or even how many job opportunities exist—if someone is too depressed to even get out of bed for example, then it will be even more difficult for her to move her family ahead.
Depression in poverty is pervasive.
The National Institute of Mental Health reports that more than 46 million American adults experienced a mental illness within the past year, and according to the Urban Institute, 55 percent of children in poverty have mothers experiencing depression. Similarly, Medicaid recipients have been shown to experience clinical depression at twice the rate of non-participants, per Pamela Adelmann’s findings in Administration and Policy in Mental Health.
Not only does this cost the country over $200 billion annually, as Charles Roehrig has shown in Health Affairs, but it also perpetuates the cycle of poverty and has detrimental effects on child wellbeing.
We need a different path forward.