The Head to Toe Conference is Funded by the New Mexico Department of Health, Office of School and Adolescent Health and the New Mexico Public Education Department, Safe and Healthy Schools Bureau. This sell-out conference attracts school health and behavioral health professionals.
Kenny Thomas made headlines playing 11 seasons in the NBA, scoring more than 5,800 points and going head to head with players like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O’Neal. Following his retirement from professional basketball, Thomas has turned his focus to a critical issue: mental health.
Between 1995 and 1999, Thomas played on the UNM team. Described as a hero by Lobo fans, he led the team though a series of title games and is a household name in New Mexico. In 1999, he was a first-round draft pick for the Houston Rockets and went on to play for the Philadelphia 76ers and Sacramento Kings.
After all his success as an athlete, Thomas is once again making headlines. But this time it’s as an entrepreneur working in the social impact space.
“It’s always been a passion of mine to give back,” said Thomas in an interview with the EdUp EdTech podcast. The way I was raised: (1) you need to give back because you’re supposed to, and (2) you need to give back in order to receive more blessings.”
In 2022 Thomas met Dr. Katherine Grill, a trained therapist and neuroscientist working in Health Tech. In 2017 Grill left her clinical research position at Children’s National to move to Silicon Valley and founded a startup a year later. The company, called Neolth, is the developer of a mobile application for teen mental health.
“I was working with teens at a pediatric hospital and noticed they were interested in health technology,” said Grill. “I wanted to get their perspective, to ask the kids what would work well for them. So that’s how Neolth was built. We’ve had about 500 young people work with us on co-development on a self-guided mobile app.”
The app uses an algorithm to personalize content for each teen, matching them with therapist-created activities like journaling, breathing and creative art. It also has a community section, where teens can watch videos and read blogs about mental health. The content is created by health professionals and teens themselves, who share their lived experiences to break down stigma. Neolth even offers an AI that can identify young people who are struggling and connect them to crisis counselors.
Thomas joined the advisory board of Neolth in January 2023, with a focus on expanding the company’s mental health support within New Mexico. Their latest milestone was being asked to give the keynote speech at the upcoming Head to Toe Conference in Albuquerque. Funded by the New Mexico Department of Health, Office of School and Adolescent Health and the New Mexico Public Education Department, Safe and Healthy Schools Bureau, this sell-out conference attracts school health and behavioral health professionals.
“We’re going to be in Albuquerque in mid-November keynoting the Head to Toe conference,” said Grill. “We’re chatting with stakeholders in New Mexico to get the conversation started about mental health technology and best practices for schools.”
Beyond the keynote, the duo is working with state stakeholders to roll out the mobile app across New Mexico. They have plans to partner with community organizations to reach kids who aren’t utilizing traditional pathways to care.
“We have a variety of different things we’re working on,” said Thomas. This includes some collaborations, yet to be announced, aimed at supporting youth athletes.
“It’s about being creative and meeting young people where they are”, said Grill. “Not that the doctor’s office isn’t important, but there are so many people who don’t end up there. Events like Kenny’s basketball tournaments are an innovative new channel to reach young people.”
Their collaboration is off to a promising start with Neolth already having won over 20 awards, including being named as a top global solution for youth mental health by the World Economic Forum. It’s a partnership with huge potential to benefit the mental health of our communities.
At Neolth we use technology to provide personalized mental health support & community to students. Our goal is to be an entry point to care by meeting students where they are - on their phones.Neolth has a growing community of Student Ambassadors from 250+ schools and works with organizations to improve the mental health support of their members ages 11+. You can learn more by going to our website, following our Instagram, and signing up today.