Katie Roeper, in Richmond’s Fan neighborhood, recently retired as director of No Wrong Door. Photo by Eric Kruszewski.

By Gil Klein

Earl Ragland, 65, a retired railroad worker in Richmond, said he depended on his wife to organize the budget, pay bills and manage the household. When she died two years ago, he was at a loss for what to do.

A local support agency, Senior Connections, used No Wrong Door, an innovative referral system, to get Ragland enrolled with organizations that helped him set up a budget, pay his bills, and get assistance for food and utilities.

“I couldn’t have done it without them,” Ragland said. “I wouldn’t still be in this house.”

For many older people and their relatives, finding the right service provider when in need can be daunting. They may go from one agency to another, filling out long forms that ask for the same information. It’s easy to get confused, discouraged and overwhelmed.

That’s why Virginia set up No Wrong Door, which shares client information with multiple providers of long-term services and supports.

Using a comprehensive data­base, it provides Virginians with access to more than 26,000 providers. No matter where people go to find help, they will be connected to all of the other providers (both public and private) with services they need.

Using a secure network, a county agency can quickly share information with a local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, or with a nonprofit that provides transportation so an older person can get the appropriate help.

No Wrong Door has been led for over a decade by the state Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services, in partnership with Virginia’s health and human resource agencies. The website (nowrongdoorvirginia.org) features a state map allowing users to pinpoint providers in any county.

Katie Roeper, the recently retired director of No Wrong Door, described how the system helps a person looking for assistance:
“I can tell my story to a No Wrong Door partner, who inputs my information into the system, with my consent to share it. So, when I get referrals to other partners, they already have that information.”

Filling out forms—once
It’s similar to the concept of electronic medical records that now provide doctors and hospitals with the ability to quickly share a patient’s medical information.

“No Wrong Door is the same concept for non-medical needs such as home-delivered meals, transportation and home care,” said Roeper. “It helps the patients who often get so tired of telling their story to provider after provider that they leave out important information.”

A person seeking help can go to one organization and immediately be referred to others, she said. People seeking one service may not even know about other services available to them until they get into the No Wrong Door system.

The system also makes it easier for families to find help for older relatives and people with disabilities.

Deb Dalla Villa, 62, of Virginia Beach, lives two hours away from her relatives in Richmond. She has used No Wrong Door through Senior Connections to find services for her parents and two aunts facing significant health and mobility issues.

“I worked a full-time job, making a hands-on effort difficult for me,” Dalla Villa said. “I tell everyone I meet who may be facing similar family issues and don’t know where to turn that the first and best step is Senior Connections and the No Wrong Door program.”

Gil Klein is a writer living in Arlington, Va.