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New program offers free therapy for Brooklyn Center residents

Brooklyn Center was selected for this pilot program before anywhere else in the metro.

BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. — Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota and Hurdle Health announced Tuesday that later this year, free teletherapy will be offered to Brooklyn Center residents.

BCBS MN's first vice president of racial and health equity, Bukata Hayes, says the number of sessions an individual may receive will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

"It allows folks who need it to access it," Hayes said.

While Blue Cross is covering the costs, Hurdle Health is providing the mental health professionals. They specialize in "culturally responsive and trauma-informed teletherapy."

"That therapy puts both culture and lived experience of their clients at the forefront," Hayes said.

Hayes added that by avoiding physically walking into a building, virtual therapy may help reduce the stigma associated with traditional therapy.

"The ability to do that virtually allows folks to do it in their home to get those services that they need," he said. "For those who need in person, seek in person."

Hayes said the involved partners selected Brooklyn Center knowing it's Minnesota's second most racially diverse city and the only city with both a Black mayor and city manager. 

"Brooklyn Center had some of the worst outcomes and disparities in terms of COVID 19," Hayes said. "The death of Daunte Wright, right, and that's been sort of unfortunately a pattern within our state in terms of African-American men and interaction with public safety and tragedy. So for us, it was a way in which … we could support a community going through a process of mourning but also wanting to not simply be remembered as that."

He says this is one of several initiatives launched after the organization declared racism a public health crisis in 2020. While there is no set launch date, BCBS MN has committed to offering this for five years. The program may expand to other cities in the future. Registration is available online.

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