The Wellness Center aims to reimagine what wellness and mental health care looks like in Black communities.
Abel Geleta and Khuan-Yu Hall
Collaborating Journalist and Staff Journalist
Courtesy of Pathways to Wellness
Hamden will soon be home to a new mental health and wellness center, dedicated to providing black women with a safe and comfortable space to access needed mental health care.
Pathways to Wellness, which launched its mental health services online in 2020, plans to open its first physical location on March 25. The new wellness center is the result of a collaboration between Dr Natasha Wright and Denise Newton, two clinical social workers based in Hamden.
Wright and Newton came together to develop a joint practice after personally experiencing challenges accessing mental health care as women of color themselves. They hope to expand access to care and provide spaces for women to feel comfortable and safe using mental health services such as individual therapy, yoga, meditation, expressive therapies and more. .
“Black women face significant disparities in mental health care,” Wright said. “One is access to care and access has several components where it’s either not possible to find a provider or access also being insurance issues. And then the third problem with that would be the hours and the availability of these so-called providers.
By opening a physical location, Pathways to Wellness hopes to better serve patients and encourage others to seek out their services. With an emphasis on holistic and integrative care such as expressive and adventure therapies to complement more traditional mental health care programs, Pathways to Wellness providers aim to provide tailored services unique to women.
Pathways to Wellness planned to launch the women’s center when it was established three years ago, but the COVID-19 pandemic has stalled those efforts. However, with mental health clinical services in high demand among women, Pathways to Wellness has provided virtual clinical services throughout the pandemic to meet the needs.
“At the end of last year, we were prompted to start expanding our services and start looking at a brick-and-mortar home and location,” Wright said. “We’re locating it in the greater New Haven area…which then allows us to provide additional services. So now we can deploy the full wellness component of Pathways to Wellness. »
To start Pathways, Wright said she and her team had to overcome many social obstacles. Wright described issues such as mistrust of the medical system and stigma surrounding therapy in the communities they hope to serve. However, Wright said his team was able to overcome these barriers due to the need for their services.
Wright also said Pathways received some pushback for focusing specifically on extending care to black women, with some saying it was “too niche.” Although Wright said it was a niche, she argued it was necessary. There is a need for spaces designed to support underserved, marginalized and often invisible people, according to Wright.
Kenyatta Hayes, wellness practitioner at Pathways, said another type of challenge the center tackles is the many racial prejudice integrated into modern medical practice and counter the associated assumptions.
“There are research studies, but it’s kind of not fully recognized at the forefront,” Hayes said. “If just changing the stroke on an index changes the whole treatment plan. It’s insane… But these are things that have been in place for years that no one can guess.
Prior to working at Pathways, Hayes worked and grew up near Greenwich, where many of his clients were unlike him. Hayes wanted to do more to serve black women, which eventually led her to Pathways.
For Hayes, this job allowed her to help her clients, but also to help herself.
“I wanted to work with black women and serve people who are like me, like taking care of myself,” Hayes said. “Not only am I feeding my soul. I’m healing a lot of trauma that’s been with me. I’m helping women. It’s going to help their families. So it doesn’t end with me.
Pathways director of programming Damian Kendrick echoed the emphasis on community value and support, hoping those who enter the center will feel it’s a space meant for them.
Kendrick also hopes Pathway will be able to offer a fresh perspective on therapy and wellness based on shared experiences and benefit their clients and other practitioners in the industry.
“I feel like black women, we understand what it feels like to the recipient side of the disparity in care,” Kendrick said. “It’s something we can all relate to on so many levels… It’s no secret. We all know that the systems in place were not designed for us. So we are here to change that narrative.
Pathways to Wellness is located at 60 Connolly Parkway in Hamden.