This year, we’ve been forced to rethink the myriad of different ways we connect, socialize and interact with each other. In the absence of face-to-face time, can technology and online tools help us make, maintain, and strengthen those connections so vital to everyday life? We believe they can. That’s why we need your help.

Can you design an easy-to-use online directory of social engagement programs and technology tools and products that matches end-users who are socially isolated with customized suggestions, tailored to meet their specific needs, interests, and abilities, in one seamless end-to-end experience? Then we want to hear from you.

The Administration for Community Living (ACL) along with the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH), components of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, are offering up to $750,000 in prizes and an opportunity to reach up to 10 million Americans. The prize will be awarded to the winner at the CES in January 2021. ACL and OASH are joined by the Consumer Technology Association Foundation (CTA Foundation), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in promoting the competition and judging and/or evaluating the submissions.

Are you up to the challenge? Learn more about the competition and how to apply below.


The number of people in the United States aged 65 or older will almost double from 49 million in 2020 to 95 million by the year 2060 comprising nearly one quarter of the total US population. Among the senior population, nearly 25% of Americans aged 65-and-over are considered to be socially isolated - “the objective state of having few social relationships or infrequent social contact with others” - while 43% of those 60-and-over report feeling lonely.

A constellation of harmful health outcomes have been associated with isolation and loneliness including premature mortality, a higher risk for developing dementia, heart failure and stroke, and increased risk of hospitalizations. In light of these health risk factors, it is unsurprising that analyses of Medicare spending has revealed an additional $6.7 billion spent annually on enrollees who are socially isolated.

Recognizing the importance in fostering the development of innovative solutions to combat the harmful effects of these risk factors and the role technology has in addressing social isolation and loneliness, in March 2019, the White House National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) released a report on “Emerging Technologies to Support an Aging Population.”

The challenges brought forth by social isolation and loneliness has come to the fore during the Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. As the nation continues to adhere to public health recommendations of social distancing, an increasingly recognized secondary outcome is the risk social distancing can have on rates of loneliness and social isolation especially among our nation’s most vulnerable populations including older adults, persons with disabilities living alone, as well as those who live in care facilities and group homes and our nation’s Veterans population.


While there are an array of technologies and social engagement programs in the marketplace, there are considerable gaps in both awareness of and access to these technologies and programming for those individuals most likely to be lonely and isolated. Consequently, there is an opportunity to increase access and awareness to technologies and social engagement programming.

ACL and OASH are pleased to announce the Mobilizing and Empowering the Nation and Technology to Address Loneliness & social isolation (MENTAL) Health Innovation Challenge to address this need. Supporting partners include the VA, FCC, and the CTA Foundation.

With this health innovation challenge we hope to recognize innovative ideas and solutions that seek to develop a software platform that increases awareness of, access to and use of social engagement technologies and programming to help curtail the impact of loneliness and social isolation.

Subject and Scope of Prize Competition

The MENTAL Health Innovation Challenge asks care partners, local communities, businesses, non-profit organizations, institutions, healthcare providers, technologists, academics, among others in the global community for innovative solutions to combat loneliness and social isolation in vulnerable populations including Veterans, older adults, persons with disabilities living alone, racial and ethnic minority populations, as well as those who live in care facilities and group homes that may be isolated from visitors and family members during a quarantine.

The goal of this challenge is to increase consumer awareness and use of technology tools that keep older adults, people with disabilities, racial and minority populations, and Veterans socially engaged and connected to families, friends, communities and activities of interest. The Challenge is seeking solutions that assess socially isolated individuals and match them with appropriate technology tools and social engagement programming that best meet their needs. The winning solution will become part of a public-private campaign to reach up to 10 million socially isolated older adults, people with disabilities, racial and minority populations and Veterans. Successful solutions will build from existing assessments, technology tools, and utilize state of the art matching algorithms to address the following topic area:

Topic Area: Increase Awareness and Use of Technology and Social Engagement Programming Through an Accessible Social Engagement Clearinghouse

Critical partners for designing solutions to this challenge should include a team of key stakeholders with relevant technical expertise as well as knowledge in technologies and programs that address social isolation. Preference will be given to teams that coordinate with or are informed by a state ADRC/No Wrong Door (NWD) System. Since 2003, states and community-based organizations (CBOs) have invested in state NWDs to streamline access to long term services and supports for older adults, individuals with disabilities, and their caregivers. State NWD systems include a community-based approach to person-centered planning and assessment, information and referral to state and community resources, and a governance structure that ensures these functions are available across the state.

The challenge will compete in two phases with cash prizes awarded in each phase. The total prize award available is $750,000.

Key Dates

Phase 1: Plan and Design a Social Engagement Clearinghouse Prototype

Phase 2: Pilot and Test Social Engagement Clearinghouse Alpha


Prize Breakdown

A prize purse of $750,000 is available for this prize challenge. The Phase 1 Prize Challenge fund is $150,000. For this challenge we will award up to $150,000 total prize funds for Phase I. We expect to select up to 3 Finalists to progress on to Phase II. Each Finalist will win $50,000 upon selection. Please note - In the event we choose fewer than 3 Finalists, the $150,000 will be split evenly among those teams selected (for example, if 2 teams are selected as Finalists each will receive $75,000).

The Phase 2 Prize Challenge award amount is $550,000. The winner will be awarded $450,000 and the runner-up will be awarded $100,000. Finalists and the winner are eligible for a bonus prize if they submit a written assessment detailing their continued work to implement, scale and sustain the solution. Total funds available for the bonus prize is $50,000. The bonus prize submissions will be due September 30, 2021 and details will be provided at a later date.

Non-monetary Prizes

The top two contenders will present their solution at the CES 2021 in Las Vegas, NV (January 6-9, 2021).



To be eligible to win a prize under this challenge, an individual or entity may participate as part of one or more teams. Team formation is strongly encouraged, and teams are not limited in the number of members. Each team must designate a captain who must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident who is responsible for all correspondence regarding this Challenge. An individual or entity:


Technical Rules:

Terms and Conditions


The Judging Panel will be composed of federal and/or other technical and subject matter experts.

Judging Criteria:

Applicants will be judged on the following criteria for each phase of the competition. Additional detail and updates to the judging criteria and submission guidelines will be posted prior to the submission start date.

Phase 1: Solutions will be evaluated for usability, user-centeredness, and technical approach that meets the goal of successfully getting individuals to solutions that meet their needs. For Phase 1 submissions, the approach should be feasible and have a high likelihood to succeed.

Phase 2:

How to Enter

Registration for this Challenge:

Beginning June 23, 2020 at 7:15 am EDT, the identified Official Representative (individual, team, or legal entity) may register for this Challenge by sending an email to with the subject line stating ‘MENTAL Health Challenge Registration’. In this email you must identify only one Official Representative for each Challenge registration. The Official Representative must provide a name and email address and, by sending in the registration, affirms on behalf of the Solver (individual, team, or legal entity), that he or she has read and consents to be governed by the Challenge Rules. Registration for this Challenge is due by Sept. 8, 2020 at 11:59 pm EDT.

Questions concerning this Challenge should be sent by email to

How to Apply for this Challenge:

Phase I

Submissions for Phase 1 of this Challenge are due by September 8, 2020 at 11:59 pm EDT. The identified Official Representative (individual, team or legal entity) may apply for this Challenge by submitting an application by email to The application for Phase 1 of the Challenge shall meet the following requirements:

Description: The plan and design a Social Engagement Clearinghouse Interactive Prototype phase invites all eligible entities to submit a concept white paper outlining their technology, the potential impact for older adults, people with disabilities, racial and minority populations and Veterans that may be socially isolated, the innovative idea / concept behind how their platform could work and leverage existing efforts, and how this is informed by user needs they have identified. Each concept, wireframe, and prototype will be reviewed by a panel of judges with knowledge and expertise in technology, user design and experience. Only the first three pages (inclusive of any visual representations or graphics) of the concept description document will be reviewed along with the interactive prototype submission and its one page description, and the proposed plan to pilot the prototype in Phase 2. During the Phase I review process, the concept paper, interactive prototype and the proposed plan to pilot the prototype in Phase 2 will be redacted for both applicant and any specific organizational partner names referenced (versus broader categories of organizational partners) and reviewed by Federal evaluators screened to avoid conflicts of interest. Judges will review all submissions for Phase 1. A subset of the highest scoring submissions will be asked to be available September 15 through September 22, 2020 to participate in a 45 minute session to present and demo their Social Engagement Clearinghouse Interactive Prototype to the judges. ACL will provide additional criteria throughout the various phases to further define requirement expectations.

A panel of judges will review and score submissions between September 8, 2020 through September 29, 2020. Finalists to move to Phase 2 will be notified by September 30, 2020.

Phase 2: Pilot and Test Social Engagement Clearinghouse Alpha

Finalists will be asked to demonstrate the Social Engagement Clearinghouse Alpha and submit the results of their pilot and testing of the Social Engagement Clearinghouse Alpha to by December 4, 2020 at 11:59 pm EST. The submission will include:

The top two contenders will be notified December 15, 2020. The winner and runner-up and will be asked to present their solution at the CES 2021. The winner will be announced at the CES 2021 in Las Vegas, NV—January 6-9, 2021.


  1. No Wrong Door System State/Territory Leads (Updated July 13, 2020)
  2. To find a Veteran-Directed Care (VDC) Provider, go to
  3. July 9, 2020: MENTAL Health Innovation Challenge Webinar Materials:

  4. July 30, 2020 Mental Health Innovation Challenge Webinar Materials:

  5. July 16, 2020: Frequently Asked Questions Document
  6. July 31, 2020: Frequently Asked Questions Document Update
  7. Educational Webinars on Using Technology to Address Social Isolation:

    1. June 26th webinar: Addressing Social Isolation Through Technology Solutions
    2. July 9th webinar: Successfully Engaging Older Adults & Adults with Disabilities via Technology Strategies and Best Practices
  8. Eldercare Locator is a public service provided by the U.S. Administration for Community living, Administration on Aging that connects people to services for older adults. Eldercare Locator can be navigated independently online or individuals can speak with a person via 800-677-1116. The Eldercare Locator has an open API that can be accessed at this link: