Monday, November 22, 2010

Counties prep for 2-1-1 help line

By Alex Paul, Albany Democrat-Herald | Posted: Monday, November 22, 2010 9:00 am

By next summer, residents of Linn, Benton and Lincoln counties will be able to make a single phone call to learn how they can seek help with health care, transportation, food pantries and other needs.

A 2-1-1 phone program is expected to be up and running by then, according to Greg Roe, executive director of United Way of Linn County, and Jennifer Moore, executive director of United Way in Benton and Lincoln counties.

Two-one-one operates much like the well-known 911 for emergencies, they say. It has been operating in the Portland area and in seven Oregon counties with great success. The goal is to have 2-1-1 in effect in every county in the state by 2013.

Calls are answered Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The service received more than 260,000 calls last year.

There have been more than 5,000 calls from people in Linn, Benton and Lincoln counties to the Portland 2-1-1 program in the last year, according to Roe.

“People have heard about it and are looking for help where they can find it,” he said.

Moore said data is being compiled at a “hub” in Lincoln County. Once that work is done, the data manager will begin work in Benton and then Linn County.

“We are developing relationships and updating information for entire counties, not just with specific towns,” Moore said. “When someone from one of the three counties calls 2-1-1, the operator will be able to tell them not only where the nearest resource is available to them, but also, what materials are needed to qualify for help, hours of operation, and in some cases, how many vouchers are available at a given time so they aren’t wasting their time.”

Information compiled locally will be available through the 2-1-1 center in Portland. The goal is to make all information available statewide.

Also, the information will be available on-line for anyone with Internet access, Roe and Moore said.

Linn, Benton and Lincoln counties already share many services, and sharing one data manager helps reduce overhead costs, they added.

“There is a lot of need right now in all of the counties,” Moore said.

United Way in each of the counties will pay a share of the local program’s start-up cost, projected to be about $115,000.

Roe and Moore will soon start visiting local civic organizations to provide information about the 2-1-1 project and to seek monetary support.

Moore added that developing assistance referral data base systems in in each county’s 10-year plan to end homelessness.

“People’s needs change all of the time, so we will have to be able to change with them,” Roe said. “Right now, adult dental care is an issue since so many people have lost their insurance coverage.”

To learn more about the 2-1-1 program, or to have a United Way representative speak to your civic group, contact Roe at 541-926-5432 or Moore at 541-757-7717.

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