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Announcing Our Catalyst 2020 Winners

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Dori Kreiger
Executive Director

In October, we announced Catalyst—a new competitive grants program for social entrepreneurs using wireless to solve pressing health and wellness issues. Now, I am thrilled to announce our grant winners: Objective Zero, MindRight Health and Pilleve.

We set out to create Catalyst to celebrate and accelerate the work of innovators tackling important issues, and to push the boundaries of what is possible through wireless technology. I’m proud of the work of our winners to deliver wireless-enabled innovations for veteran and teen mental health and opioid addictions.

I never could have imagined the world we would be living in when we announced our Catalyst grant winners. With the new realities set into motion by the pandemic and resulting crisis, the need for social connectedness and access to resources through telecommunications has proven to be all the more critical.

Now, more than ever, it is important to spotlight and lift up the work of the Catalyst winners. I have had the pleasure of getting to know the founders of these organizations and hear their stories, and I am inspired by the work they are doing with wireless technology.

Wireless is the undercurrent of our society, elevating nearly every aspect of our lives and allowing us to innovate, scale, and deepen our connection to one another. Our Catalyst winners are certainly doing that.

Objective Zero, which received the $100,000 grant, is a mobile app connecting service members, veterans, their families and caregivers to a nationwide network of peer and civilian support through text, voice and video chat.

Objective Zero grew out of a six-hour phone conversation founder Chris Mercado had with co-founder Justin Miller, a fellow veteran who was in the midst of a crisis. The veteran suicide rate is around twice that of the non-veteran population. Objective Zero’s wireless-enabled peer network aims to reduce that gap to zero.

MindRight Health, which received the $50,000 grant, seeks to advance health equity by providing culturally responsive and trauma-informed mental health coaching to youth and young adults through SMS text messaging.

While working as a social worker in a school in Newark, New Jersey, Ashley Edwards, MindRight Founder and CEO, witnessed significant gaps in mental health support for students. Instead of giving into frustration with the system, she decided to do something about it. By utilizing text-based communication and meeting students where they are, MindRight provides its users with a unique set of services and support, breaking down barriers like stigma, lack of resources and the inability to travel to in-person therapy sessions.

Pilleve, which received the $25,000 grant, is tackling the opioid crisis via a wireless-enabled smart device and connected smartphone app that monitors and screens for opioid abuse and addiction.

When Yossuff Albanawi, Pilleve Co-Founder and CEO, was 17 years old and struggling with substance abuse, his mother arranged what proved to be a life-changing intervention. Due to this intervention, he credits his mother with saving his life and, ultimately, sparking the inspiration for Pilleve. Prescription opioid abuse is frequently a gateway to illicit drug use, but it is almost impossible to track what happens to opioids once they have been prescribed. By solving this challenge via an innovative, wireless-enabled smart device, Pilleve is able to prevent misuse and break the cycle of abuse and addiction.

Each of these innovative winners represents an inspiring case study in how the Catalyst program enables social entrepreneurs to create positive social impact. They offer the reassurance that no matter what challenges we are faced with now, or might be faced with in the future, wireless technology enables us to create accessible pathways to care and maintain our human connection to one another—and to increase the speed at which they happen.

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