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Press Release: Finalists Announced in Competition to Combat Social Isolation

October 15, 2020


Contact:  ACL Office of External Affairs, (202) 401-4634,


Today, the Administration for Community Living (ACL) and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health announced the finalists and winners of the first phase of the MENTAL Health Innovation Challenge to combat social isolation. Launched in June, the challenge will award a total of $750,000 in prizes for development of an easy-to-use online system that offers suggestions for programs, activities, technologies and resources that can help people connect to others and engage in the community, based on their individual needs, interests and abilities.

Thirty-eight proposals were scored individually by multiple judges, and the eight with the highest scores were invited to present their solutions to a panel of judges and answer questions. All eight proposed solutions that are fully accessible and which can be used on both desktop and mobile devices, and most employed cloud-based technology. From those eight, No Wrong Door Virginia’s Social Health Connector and United Way Worldwide’s You Connect were selected to advance to the second phase of the competition. Each was awarded $75,000 to support continued development and testing of their solution as they compete for a first-place prize of $450,000 and a second-place prize of $100,000. The winning system will be announced and demonstrated in January 2021 at CES, an annual trade show produced by the Consumer Technology Association.

The challenge competition is one component of a national public-private collaboration to help older adults and people with disabilities remain active, healthy, and independent – even when physically separated. That effort includes establishment of a coordinating center, which will support the implementation, ongoing development, sustainability, and nationwide availability of the winning solution, as well as a public awareness campaign centered on the system.

The winning solutions and finalists are as follows. (Project descriptions were extracted from materials submitted for the competition; ACL and OASH do not endorse the organizations or solutions.)

Winner: Social Health Connector

Team Lead: Sara Link, No Wrong Door Virginia, Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services

Partners: Virginia Commonwealth University Department of Gerontology, VirginiaNavigator, Andrew Kim (developer)

The Social Health Connector proposed by the No Wrong Door Virginia team aims to engage people in a reflective, person-centered virtual conversation about the benefits of social connections and how resources and technology can help to maintain or improve health.  The tool aggregates information from databases operated by the team partners and other vetted sources about devices, electronic applications and services that can help users connect and engage. Visitors can browse all available resources or complete a short, but comprehensive, assessment of their social health to receive personalized answers, options, and resources based on their individual responses and preferences. The individual then selects from those suggestions (and can add others they find through browsing the tool) to create their own social connection plan. The assessment can be completed in a text-based format, or through a video tutorial. Conditional logic is used to further personalize the experience. For example, if a user responds that they do not feel safe in their primary relationships, the tool offers immediate suggestions and resources for support. Visitors have the option to enroll in programs directly from the site, and consumer reviews of resources are incorporated. The project builds upon several existing resources including No Wrong Door Virginia, VirginiaNavigator, EldercareLocator, and 2-1-1.

Winner: YouConnect

Team Lead: Matthew Aliberti, United Way Worldwide

Partners: UpPurpose

YouConnect is a digital matchmaking tool that leverages the 211 network’s comprehensive nationwide database of human and social services and resources as well as United Way’s presence in more than 1,100 U.S. communities to provide opportunities for people to engage and connect in healthy ways in their communities. Social engagement tools, as well as social services and other resources, will be accessible via the national 211 database. The user interface and matching process will build on technology being developed by United Way to engage millions of volunteers and donors. Based on information entered by the user, the tool will use artificial intelligence to identify and match appropriate services and engagement opportunities. The brief assessment also will screen for risks, like depression, and can route the individual to a more in-depth screening and additional support if necessary. The user can exit the profile-creation step at any point to browse resources or to get immediate help from local 211 specialists who are available 24/7 nationwide.

Finalist: CaringWire

Team Lead: Michael Sentz, CaringWire

Partners: City of Dublin (OH), Columbus Federation of Settlements, Jewish Family Services, Syntero, The Ohio State University East Federally Qualified Health Center, and United Church Homes

CaringWire matches individuals and caregivers with supportive social services to address isolation, social determinants of health, and activities of daily living. Based on information collected through the site’s evidence-based assessment tool, CaringWire provides users with a tailored care plan populated  with unbiased information about options available in their area to meet their individual needs, including location, contact information, user reviews, services offered, and fee structures. The assessment appraises stress, physical, mental, and social health needs. Users can update their information at any time as their needs change and share their information with family and providers to create a single hub of coordinated care. In addition, CaringWire periodically conducts check-in assessments to monitor changing needs over time. CaringWire’s national resource database is updated monthly and through continuous user feedback, and currently includes more than 90,000 validated technologies, community-based programs, and social engagement products.

Finalist: MIMI-Rx™ Resource and Referral Solution

Team Lead: Stanley Campbell, EagleForce Health, Inc.

Partners: Maryland Living Well Center of Excellence and Partners in Care Foundation

The Medications and Immunizations Management Initiative (MIMI-Rx™) Resource and Referral Solution (RRS) is a consumer-facing, HIPAA-compliant, HITECH secure web and mobile platform for telehealth and remote patient monitoring. It connects consumers to providers of health care, social services and other resources through a single entry point and EagleForce Health can provide devices to support that connection and enable the individual to share their information with all providers. The team incorporated computer-assisted assessments and screening strategies, such as the Upstream Social Isolation Risk Screener (U-SIRS), to increase the platform’s ability to screen older adults for loneliness and social isolation risk in community and/or clinical settings. U-SIRS uses a nationally validated algorithm to assess an individual’s connectivity and interaction with others and guide the individual to local resources that best fit those needs. Additional assessment tools embedded in the platform screen for other clinical and social needs, and MIMI-Rx™ can include resources to address them in the suggestions it provides.  In addition, MIMI-Rx™ offers users the option of connecting to both the assessment and directory of resources through a phone call or text message.

Finalist: ENGAGE: ENGaging while AGing Everywhere

Team Lead: Avi Price, Uniper Care, Inc., and Brad Karlin, Solutions for Mental Health Change, PLLC

Partners: Three Area Agencies on Aging: AgeOptions (suburban Cook County, IL), The Alliance for Aging (Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, FL), and the Areawide Council on Aging, Inc of Broward County (FL); California State University, Long Beach; Los Angeles County Alliance for Community Health and Aging

Team ENGAGE’s solution builds upon existing technologies and resources developed by primary collaborator, Uniper Care. ENGAGE incorporates a graphics-rich design approach to improve usability, particularly for users with less digital or language literacy or who may be overwhelmed by more traditional approaches to information provision. For example, the interface will include the use of an avatar guide to assist users with navigating through the site. ENGAGE’s assessment tool was built using the De Jong Gierveld 6-Item Loneliness Scale, which not only screens for social isolation and loneliness, but also screens for underlying causes to better tailor suggestions and prioritize resource options that offer the greatest utility and likelihood of use. That information about user needs will be combined with information about user goals and interests to provide personalized feedback that includes information about the user’s individual factors that contribute to loneliness and isolation, as well as resources and actions to address them. In addition to receiving customized suggestions, users also will be able to see the broader list of resources, which include Uniper Care’s virtual and interactive social activities.

Finalist: LeadingAge CAST CASES Tool

Team Lead: Majd Alwan, LeadingAge Center for Aging Services Technology

Partners: Connecticut's No Wrong Door system: Connecticut Statewide Aging & Disability Center

LeadingAge CAST CASES prototype expands the LeadingAge CAST’s Social Connectedness and Engagement Technologies portfolio, which was developed to help providers of services for older adults find, select and implement technology solutions that support social connectedness and social engagement. The CAST CASES prototype broadens the original tool, adding “no tech” and “low tech” options to the database of resources that users can find through the platform. It also provides a consumer-focused interface that allows users to indicate preferences, needs, and other individual information using a simple check-box system, with the options tailored for older adults, individuals with disabilities, veterans, and family caregivers. As the user adds criteria, successive filtering narrows the list of resources that may meet their needs.

Finalist: Senior Link (California)

Team Lead: Arthur Kajiyama, Senior Link

Partners: Optimal Aging Center, Photozig, Inc., St. Thomas of Canterbury Church

The Senior Link web application facilitates volunteer outreach to seniors and connects older adults to resources they can use to engage and connect with others. Through Senior Link, coordinators create and manage groups of volunteers, who are then connected to individual older adults. The platform facilitates volunteer recruiting and training, as well as the process of matching volunteers to individual older adults, planning and scheduling calls between them, and tracking that interaction. Through Senior Link, volunteers can relay any needs for assistance they learn about in their calls, which creates a mechanism for connecting the older individual to resources to address them. The Senior Link web application also includes a Resource Portal that can match interests, needs, and capabilities of users to resources, such as services provided by Aging and Disability Resource Centers, state No Wrong Door systems, and other agencies, in addition to local activities, products, technology training, and video programming.

Finalist: Team televëda

Team Lead: Shruti Gurudanti, Televëda (AZ)

Partners: Ability360, Arizona Department of Health Services (Prevention Services), Arizona Disabled Sports, Arizona Spinal Cord Injury Association, Arizona State University (Evaluation), Civitan Foundation, Daring Adventures, Differently Abled Mothers Empowerment Society, Duet, Inc., Foundation for Senior Living, Mikey’s League, The Miracle League of Arizona, No Wrong Door Arizona, Paralyzed Veterans of America (AZ Chapter), We’re MOVING FORWARD!

televëda offers accessible classes to help older adults and children with disabilities stay active and engaged. The classes are offered in interactive, live-streamed formats through a proprietary accessible video conferencing tool. For the MENTAL Health Challenge, Team televëda proposed to expand the scope of its existing online directory to include nationwide resources, broaden the program options with an online directory of in-person classes provided by local state agencies and other organizations, and offer resources to help organizations develop the capability to offer a hybrid of traditional and virtual programming to meet the needs of a larger audience. At scale, Team televëda’s solution would include a unified “lobby area” which aggregates all available programs (both in-person and online) offered nationwide, and would offer users dynamic and personalized recommendations based on their preferences.

The Mobilizing and Empowering the Nation and Technology to Address Loneliness & social isolation (MENTAL) Health Innovation Challenge is a partnership between the Administration for Community Living and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health. Supporting partners include the Federal Communications Commission, the Department of Veterans Affairs,and the Consumer Technology Association Foundation. The Challenge was coordinated by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

About the partners:

  • The Administration for Community Living (ACL) was created around the fundamental principle that older adults and people of all ages with disabilities should be able to live where they choose, with the people they choose, and with the ability to participate fully in their communities. By funding services and supports provided by networks of community-based organizations, and with investments in research, education, and innovation, ACL helps make this principle a reality for millions of Americans.
  • The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health oversees the Department’s key public health offices and programs, a number of Presidential and Secretarial advisory committees, 10 regional health offices across the nation, the Office of the Surgeon General, and the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.
  • In 1976, Congress established the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to provide the President and others within the Executive Office of the President with advice on the scientific, engineering, and technological aspects of the economy, national security, homeland security, health, foreign relations, the environment, and the technological recovery and use of resources, among other topics.
  • The mission of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is to fulfill President Lincoln's promise “To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan” by serving and honoring the men and women who are America’s veterans. Within the VA, the Veterans Health Administration is the largest integrated health care network in the United States, with 1,255 health care facilities serving nine million enrolled veterans each year.
  • The Federal Communications Commission regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. An independent U.S. government agency overseen by Congress, the Commission is the federal agency responsible for implementing and enforcing America’s communications law and regulations.
  • The Consumer Technology Association Foundation is a public, national foundation affiliated with the Consumer Technology Association. CTA Foundation’s mission is to link seniors and people with disabilities with technologies that enhance their lives. The foundation’s grants strategically support programs that improve the lives of seniors and people with disabilities. The foundation also facilitates dialog among industry, consumers, government, advocacy groups, and other key stakeholders.

More information about the MENTAL Health Challenge, including deadlines and evaluation criteria, can be found at and at      

Last modified on 10/21/2020

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