What’s the relationship between Caribbean Stud Poker and Mental Health? I’ll get to that.
Before I do, it’s important to understand that the stakes to improve our mental healthcare system have never been this high. Serious mental illness costs Americans over $190 billion every year. 
That doesn’t include those that are suffering silently or may not necessarily have a mental illness.
A focus on improving our country’s mental health through therapeutic intervention can also help solve another related crisis - opioids. The effects of the opioid crisis are cumulative and costly for our society—an estimated $504 billion a year in 2015—placing burdens on families, workplaces, the health care system, states, and communities. 
The stakes are clearly high and there are players in this space working hard to solve these crises and it feels a little like Caribbean Stud Poker. Wait...what?
For those that don’t know the game, Caribbean Stud Poker is a casino card game that allows you to forget about competing against other players and only play against the house instead. There’s also a progressive jackpot.
The rules are easy: the best poker hand wins. Ah, but there is one slight modification. The better poker hand wins only when the dealer has a “qualifying” hand. This means that the dealer must have at least an Ace and a King in their hand before any payouts are awarded. This does not apply to the progressive jackpot. If the dealer does not qualify and you have one of the hands listed below you will still win the jackpot. 
Now how does mental health fit into this? Work with me here and visualize the following:
every “player” at the table to be mental health practitioners, clinics, families, technology platforms, universities, students, payers, patients, hospitals, and essentially the entire community;
the “house” to be mental health and opioid crisis;
the “qualifying hand” to be adequate capital and resources; and
the “progressive jackpot” to be solving the mental health and opioid crisis;
Essentially, we need every player to work together to solve such a gargantuan problem in our country with support from patient and thoughtful strategic partners and investors, which will help qualify our approach. If all players come together, the house doesn’t seem so hard to beat and honestly, the wager could not be more enticing - quality mental healthcare for all. That’s truly a progressive jackpot.
We consider ourselves one of the newest players at the table combining technology with content and a community to address mental health in a new, fresh way. The only way a Los Angeles startup in the entertainment capital of the world and in the heart of Silicon Beach knows how. Having launched in September, we have gotten immense support from the community - it’s support that we absolutely needed especially with the weight of the few hundred billion dollar problem on our shoulders. And numbers aside, the loss and struggle we have all had with friends and family members battling their own mental health issues.
The good news is there are really amazing investors, donors and community members making monumental differences in this space already. One important conversation that I had with a community member making a big impact on mental health was with Suzanne Dworak-Peck, one of USC’s largest donors to the School of Social Work ($60 million - nbd!). She said that she never gave up, and never stopped doing what she was passionate about and that put in her in a position today to help so many others. She also said she believed in the impact technology can have on the mental health sector and what we we were doing was immensely important - that she liked our approach.
For a founder to hear that, it meant the world to me. It made me feel like we had a great hand at the table. Maybe we can take down the house and solve these crises. I know we won’t do it alone, but if we all come together, it’s definitely possible. At OOTify, we’re just getting started and we’re optimistic about the impact we will make in 2019 and beyond with the partnerships that we have lined up in our community.
And finally, why the Caribbean Stud Poker metaphor? Well, solving mental health seems like an audacious gamble especially for a small startup like OOTify. But what we realize is that we’re not solving this alone. We have the backing of our team made up of business leaders, clinicians, creatives, academics and technologists, strategic partners like academic institutions and corporates, our investors and growing support from the entire community. That includes you. If we all come together, this seems attainable. Hope you’ll join us in improving our society’s collective mental health - it’s time we work together and win this jackpot.