July 26, 2022
The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia’s Innovation Fund awarded a grant of $25,390 to Smart City Works to create a Mental Health Track for its 2022 Smart City Challenge- an innovative competition that convenes diverse, wide-ranging organizations and projects virtually in the sectors of housing, transportation, health, water, and others.

This particular grant was a marriage of goals of the Innovation Fund- to promote inventiveness, creativity, and new design, seeding a more innovative ecosystem in the region- and the Community Foundation’s focus on support for access to Mental Health across the region in 2022. Ultimately, the winner of the Mental Health Innovation Track for the Smart City Challenge was Tu Consejeria- and the winner of the whole competition. They’re a for-profit enterprise based in Guatemala, who pitched a US expansion of their existing mental health care service, accessible to anyone in the service area with a cell phone- connecting them to crisis care in less than two minutes. Because of the pandemic, they’ve grown 450% from demand over the past two years. With their prize money, Tu Consejeria will expand by opening their first US-based office in Fairfax, VA, offering a critical Spanish-language support system for Northern Virginia’s Hispanic and Latino population.

Carola Mandelbaum, Executive Director of Smart City Works, Inc, said “We are excited to continue to build on Northern Virginia’s exceptional innovation ecosystem in partnership with CFNOVA. This will bring forth much needed innovations that improve mental health services for all.”

Fairfax County alone is nearly 1/5 Hispanic or Latino, and many of these residents already lack access to mental health care. While Tu Consejeria’s platform will fulfill a need for more immediate crisis care, the path will be paved for better health access and outcomes.