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Art for the Journey partners directly with Scripps Gerontology Center – Miami University, OH to conduct OMA Facilitator Certification training supporting the East Coast of the USA and beyond.

Why, how and when did Art for the Journey begin to facilitate the OMA program in Richmond?

Founder Mark Hierholzer filed the paperwork for the 501 C-3 status to become a non-profit agency in 2014. The reasoning was to be able to raise funds for art supplies to support a group of artists, (Mark Hierholzer, Jamie Wigginton, and Cindy Paullin) to provide art classes at the Goochland Women’s Correctional Center.

At the time, with the understanding that we were looking to share well-being with others, especially marginalized individuals, Cindy Paullin asked, “what if we could help people living with dementia using art”?

After our small group (Mark and Kathy Hierholzer and Cindy Paullin) explored and attended options in Richmond, VA, such as the Alzheimer’s Association’s “Memories in the Making,” Kathy Hierholzer researched and found a best-practice model and an award winning, evidence based program called “Opening Minds through Art” (OMA) developed and founded at Miami University, OH developed by Fulbright Scholar, Dr. Elizabeth Lokon in 2010.

In 2015, Mark and Kathy Hierholzer and Cindy Paullin traveled to Ohio to attend the weeklong OMA Facilitator training to become certified in OMA. Greatly inspired, we brought OMA back to Richmond, VA.
Saint Mary’s Woods Retirement in Richmond, VA. decided to partner with Art for the Journey by supporting the necessary quality art supplies. Since then, Nan Pascal, an Art for the Journey Board member, has championed the program, even adapting it to virtual implementation over COVID19 restrictions, and today through 8 years of OMA facilitation is back in full swing.
Art for the Journey grew the Richmond program to align with the best-practice:
Over the past 8 years, the team at Art for the Journey have conducted OMA sessions at least twice a year to align with the academic calendar. Originally partnering with VCU through the VCU Aspire program, the student volunteer support began to grow and grow. Soon Medical students, OT students, University of Richmond students, and community volunteers began to see how powerful the program is, how it impacts the older adult, the student, the staff and family members, (and once they volunteered, they wanted to do it again). A robust program at Saint Mary’s Woods continues today remains a “demonstration site” for OMA Training.

Art for the Journey hopes to be a model for other states to expand OMA to scale the positive impact well beyond our borders!

How did you become OMA Facilitator trainers?...

Once we had established a successful program in Virginia over several years, OMA Founder, Dr. Lokon reached out to Art for the Journey. She and Scripps Gerontology were awarded several large-scale grants which would fund certification for activities directors across the USA. For geographical support, our program in Richmond would serve as an East Coast demonstration site where we could partner to conduct in-person practicums for people who could access Richmond more easily that central Ohio. Since 2018, Art for the Journey has remained one of only four locations that provide OMA Facilitator certification, and to date have certified over 200 individuals across the US and Canada.

What is the CMP OMA Grant?...

In 2021, in partnership with LeadingAge Virginia, Art for the Journey was awarded $1.1 Million dollars in funding to expand the OMA program through training and certification for up to 102 nursing homes Statewide. These funds came from Civil Monetary Penalties (CMP) to be re-invested in Quality Improvement Programming (QIP). These certification trainings continue with the help of qualified instructors and through a continued partnership with Scripps Gerontology Center, Miami University, OH. The Three-year cycle of this funding will be complete in June 2024, and we are close to reaching our goals for numbers of nursing homes who participate.

What impact does training have?

It is estimated that for each certified Facilitator, when the program is implemented, an average of 17 individuals per session receive wellbeing from participating. For every participant there are an average of four individuals also impacted positively:

OMA benefits:

1. The elder, who is engaged in the OMA togetherness programming addressing the negative effect of social isolation, is given voice through creative expression and finds a unique sense of personhood, and who also rises into purpose of imparting wisdom, care and love for the volunteer.

2. The volunteer who receives training and education around the OMA approach with new perspective about people living with dementia.

3. At least one staff member sees a different approach to communicating with and celebrating individuals with dementia as the wonderful people they are.

4. At least 1 family member receives the peace and knowledge that there is someone who spends quality time with their loved one – the student/community volunteer, who also receives the deliverable – the art or the image of the art as wonderful expression from their mothers, fathers, sisters, or brothers voice.

Last year, in 2023, through surveys, Art for the Journey’s OMA Certification training impacted the lives of 4,083 individuals. This scalability of positive impact is extraordinary, and the best-practice academically designed training has made all the difference. As each year offers opportunities for more and more people to engage, new participants, new volunteers, new family members, the impact will continue to scale, and as a part of the bigger mission developed by Founder Dr. Elizabeth Lokon to “build bridges over age and cognitive barriers,” Art for the Journey is honored to be a part of the brilliance and exponential growth of something that does so much good through art and social engagement. Now a global program, found in the US, Canada, and Indonesia, the number of lives OMA touches is in the tens of thousands, possibly even more.

At Art for the Journey, a brilliant training team has emerged. Dianne Simons, Phd, OTR/L, FAOTA serves at the Lead OMA Facilitator Trainer. Dianne learned of OMA through OT graduate students who were so impressed by it's design and since has sponsored OT Doctoral Researchers to work with Art for the Journey in OMA and all of our programs. Stephanie Shanks, Director of OMA at Art for the Journey oversees the large scale expansion, and Angie Allen, Assistant Director of OMA at Art for the Journey brings her experience from teaching in the art department of VCU to the training and communications needed to share the resource state-wide. All of the Art for the Journey staff have served to help with the first ever state-wide expansion of OMA in a state other than where it was founded. Art for the Journey hopes to be a model for other states to expand OMA and to scale the positive impact well beyond our borders.

May this brilliantly designed program continue to touch lives through scalability for years and years to come.

At Art for the Journey, we plan to remain a training center for OMA. Additionally, we are currently developing new programming inspired by the design of OMA and expanding possibilities to impact more lives by targeting the negative effects of social isolation. We are in the production stages of the new program and will launch by the end of 2024.

A full list of nursing homes and long-term care facilities who have recieved training from Art for the Journey will be added before June 2024.

In addition to certification for nursing homes and long-term care facilities:

Art organizations such as the Cultural Arts Center of Glen Allen received OMA Facilitator certification for several staff through Art for the Journey and now have created an "OMA Center" providing access to the OMA program to people living at home AND their CAREGIVERS. They have trained more than 100 volunteers to serve as partners and provide caregivers support through a partnership with the Alzheimer's Association.

The Department of Aging services for western Virginia's Valley region works with nursing students as partners for OMA programs near James Madison University and Hollins College with the excellent stewardship of the program by Kathy Guisewhite.

A special initiative by Jodi Winship who received her certification training from Art for the Journey is found in her new non-profit organization, "Aging and Engaging" to provide access to meaningful activities for elders living in low income senior housing and adult day centers.

These are only a few examples of how the OMA Facilitator training has inspired other organizations to make use of the brilliance and design of the impactful program.

At Art for the Journey, we are honored to have a part in the training and to witness the amazing and successful impact across the Commonwealth and beyond!