Episode 91 VR Workforce Studio

No Wrong Door Virginia, winner in the Administration for Community Living’s Mental Health Innovation Challenge

VR Workforce Studio-Episode 91 album artwork featuring Sara Link and No Wrong Door Virginia


Singers:  VR Workforce Studio.

Rick Sizemore:  This is a special feature presentation of the VR Workforce Studio podcast. I’m your host, Rick Sizemore, along with the DARS Communications Manager, Betsy Civilette. Welcome Betsy

Betsy Civilette:  Rick, we are so excited about today’s show with Sara Link, who heads up our No Wrong Door, Virginia program,

Rick Sizemore:  Sara and the No Wrong Door Virginia team, just won the Administration for Community Living’s mental health innovation challenge with the award presented through the consumer electronic showcase at the CTA foundation. Sara, welcome to the podcast.

Sara Link:  Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.

Betsy Civilette:  Sara, before we talk about the award. Can you just give us a quick overview of what No Wrong Door Virginia is?

Sara Link:  Yes. So No Wrong Door is a single point of entry system. It exists in all 56 States and territories. It’s really a big vision of the Administration for Community Living, of anybody who is seeking long-term services and supports whether you’re an older adult, an individual with a disability, a veteran or caregiver or family member that you’re able to enter into a single point of entry system for finding those community-based supports that you need to thrive. We have an electronic system for connecting people through referrals to those home and community-based services and supports. We do that through our network of area agencies on aging. We have 25 area agencies on aging across the state of Virginia and their local leads to our network. We also work really closely with our centers for independent living who helped provide supports to our network. This single point of entry system in Virginia is supported by a vast network of partners who really believe in person centered options, counseling and person centered practices for holistically looking at an individual, any types of supports and needs that they may need.

Rick Sizemore:  Sara, the Administration for Community living or ACL they’re challenged starts with the fact that approximately 25% of older adults in the United States are socially isolated, 43% of people over the age of 60 say they feel lonely. You led the team in Virginia to address the problem. Tell us about your work.

Sara Link:  Yeah, we have been working in this space of really understanding the context of social isolation with No Wrong Door systems, because we know that most people come into these types of systems because they’ve had a disruptive life event, whether it’s somebody fell or whether it’s somebody lost a loved one, or they’ve had some other type of event that has really led them to a point of needing help and supports. With this, we also know, comes a lot of isolation where people question what they’re going through and they understand that asking for supports is often difficult. We’ve come into the context of our work of understanding that many people both feel isolated, so If we can address both the nature of isolation and we can also address holistically those types of supports, that can better reinforce how they can reach out and to community partners, we can really look at offering them a mechanism. One of those is through a self-referral and one of them is also through a self-assessment. We want to take the stigma out of people, feeling not able to ask for support and take that stigma out of somebody’s meeting those supports by offering an easy tool. We entered into this challenge of knowing that both we need to have a system of supports that connects people to the resources they need, but also being able to self-reflect and self-refer, and self-assess how those different types of supports can help them. When we went into this challenge, we had already a great network of partners with both VCU Department of Gerontology, who has done a lot of research and evidence based work in this space, with Virginia Navigator, who is Virginia’s statewide network of resources and supports over 27,000 different resources in our system nationwide.

Sara Link:  And also with Virginia assistive technology, because we know right now, amidst this COVID-19 pandemic, everybody is feeling that context of social isolation. This is not a new phenomenon. It’s not a phenomenon that’s going away anytime soon. Addressing this challenge, we wanted to bring in both the research to support how we look at developing an assessment that somebody would actually use and also culminate a group of interested partners who were able to craft and look at the research and also have that backend technology for both a high-tech solution and a low tech solution for somebody who isn’t able to access the technology.

Rick Sizemore:  Sara, Steve Ewell heads up the Consumer Technology Association Foundation and is involved in the consumer electronic showcase this year. Here is what he had to say about the showcase and the award presentation.

Steve Ewell:  My name is Steve Ewell and I’m Executive Director of the Consumer Technology Association Foundation. We are the charitable foundation affiliated with CTA, the group that runs CES. We are so thrilled to partner with the Administration for Community Living on their mental health innovation challenge this year, and host the finals at CES, which is the global stage for innovation. We bring together leaders in technology from around the world. This year we are going to feature the winners of that contest at CES. We are so thrilled to have No Wrong Door, Virginia, be one of the finalists and congratulate them on their amazing submission to this competition.

Betsy Civilette:  How does it feel for you to be involved with such a huge event like the CES conference?

Sara Link:  This is so thrilling. As I was listening even to Steve’s comments, I’m over here beaming-

Rick Sizemore:  You should be.

Sara Link:  … as I stare at my computer screen, because, this means not only so much for the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehab services, that’s really lifted up this No Wrong Door initiative. It means so much for our state overall. It also means so much in the context of what’s going to happen nationally. Not only as Virginia has been really embedded in the research and rolling this out with its No Wrong Door statewide system, but how this will also culminate to other statewide networks of No Wrong Door systems. As well as how nationally we’ll really start to address this whole research and evidence around what is social isolation and how we can continually look at combating loneliness and reducing any type of stigma associated with it. Knowing that there are supports in communities and knowing that there are resources at people’s fingertips that they can access.  So exciting.

Rick Sizemore:  Yes, absolutely. Well, you have a cool new video as well, explaining how this fits together. Tell us about the video.

Sara Link:  We have a video that showcases how to utilize the assessment. It actually addresses a person who would be coming into this system. They’re able to go to our website, so No Wrong Door, Virginia. The website that we use for our person center portal is easy access and they will be able to go there and utilize this assessment tool to self reflect on what they’re experiencing right now in life and identifying those different types of resources that might help support them on their journey. This video that we have done for the conference helps walk people through what it would mean for you as an individual who might want to access this type of support.

Betsy Civilette:  Right? We will have a link to the new No Wrong Door video, in our show notes at vrworkforcestudio.com.

Rick Sizemore:  Are there plans to scale this project, so it meets the needs of the larger community of people who are isolated?

Sara Link:  Yes. Rick, that’s such a great question. The Administration for Community Living, one of the reasons why they put out this proposal for this challenge is because they know that they need a scalable model that will not only touch different communities. It could touch different States and then be rolled out federally. We’re really excited to be in this space with another team United Way Worldwide, to watch how these types of models could work together and work together nationally so that we can have a scalable solution that can not only just impact our region and local communities in the state of Virginia, but also how other States can be impacted. Nationally we can have these types of solutions that all work together.

Rick Sizemore:  Social isolation is known to negatively affect the health and wellbeing of people with disabilities and older adults often resulting in avoidable medical expenses. Through this challenge, the Administration for Community Living sought to develop new ways to reduce social isolation, to bolster a sense of connection for these individuals. Now that’s from a Lance Robertson, the ACL Administrator and Assistant Secretary of Aging. Sara, it seems to me that you’ve made some enormous strides in providing some real world practical, scalable solutions. So congratulations to you and the team at No Wrong Door.

Sara Link:  Thank you so much, Rick. We’re so excited. And we also want to give a huge shout out to the Administration for Community Living for both coming up with this huge vision and for allowing us to be a part of this process and for allowing us to be in a place in spaces we think through really driving innovation in our state.

Betsy Civilette:  Sara link leads No Wrong Door, Virginia through the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services. Thank you again, Sara, for being on our podcast today.

Sara Link:  Well, thank you both so much for having me and thank you so much for all of your work and for continuing to promote how important social isolation is and reducing that stigma associated with it.

Rick Sizemore:  You can find more information about the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services at, vadars.org. Thank you for joining us for today’s special feature presentation of the VR Workforce Studio podcast, a production of the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services in partnership with the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center Foundation.

Announcer:  The VR Workforce Studio podcast is owned and operated by the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center Foundation. The foundation publishes and distributes the VR Workforce Studio and manages all sponsor arrangements. Audio content for the podcast is provided to the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center Foundation by the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services in exchange for promotional considerations.