Jena Smith started building The Bright App in 2018. As a health workforce researcher and a consumer of mental health services herself, she knew she was well equipped to create a tool to connect Montanan’s with mental health providers. She set out to build a directory that was not only accessible to the public on a single platform, but accessible to all mental health organizations that needed a mental health directory on their website.
Jena’s Story: When I was fresh out of college (MSU Bozeman), my mental health was struggling. When I finally decided to connect with a professional to talk about my struggles, I found it very difficult to locate the right counselor. First of all, I had NO IDEA how to access any type of healthcare. It sounds silly, but hear me out. I grew up in a small town in northern Montana. I received my primary care through a small clinic within a critical access hospital. To me, that meant you go to the hospital to see your doctor. Then, during my years at MSU, I had access to the student health services clinic, that made sense. Okay – now I’m out of college, I’m in a larger town and I do not have access to student health. What do I do? Go to the hospital? That seems odd.
So what do I do when I have no idea where to turn? I go to the urgent care. At the very least they will know where to refer me, right? Wrong. That was not my experience. The urgent care providers knew only of the local mental health center. I was told I would wait for a call. The call never came. I decided to reach out to counselors myself. I made call after call to counselors I found in the phone book. Many were not accepting new clients, some didn’t accept my insurance, it was a very frustrating process for me to find care. It didn’t give up. I finally found the perfect counselor who changed my perspective on life.
Here I am today, an advocate for those seeking mental health services and cheering them on. I hope The Bright App helps consumers to narrow down their options so they don’t have to make as many calls. However, I will say – if you don’t find the right counselor immediately, please keep seeking. The right fit is out there.
As a professional, I hope other organizations find use in the tool and it will keep them from duplicating their efforts.