News Review: Hungry, broke, need an inexpensive doctor? 2-1-1 can help
By Carisa Cegavske
Douglas County residents who need food or shelter or other crucial assistance can now dial 211 for help.
The county has joined much of the rest of the nation in offering a 211 help line to provide information about some 100 local social service organizations.
The United Community Action Network and Greater Douglas United Way worked with phone companies to make the 211 service available.
Some county residents received the service as early as December and now all county residents do, UCAN Director Mike Fieldman said.
Also, as of Tuesday, the listings are online atwww.211info.org.
The 211 help line originated in Atlanta when that city was gearing up to host the Olympics in 1996. It's now available in every state and provides services to 86 percent of Americans.
“In some ways we're on the tail end of this. We're catching up to the rest of the country on it,” Fieldman said. “It's going to be an easier way for people to find out what services are available.”
Douglas County residents are connected to a call center in Portland, where operators refer callers to organizations in the county.
UCAN will receive reports on what callers are seeking. “It's a really good way to figure out what people need and what are the gaps in services,” Fieldman said.
So far, the biggest need has been food, with 35 percent of the callers seeking help putting something on the table.
Sixty-eight percent of the callers so far have been women. Veterans have also found the service helpful, Fieldman said.
“There's a lot of veterans that are coming back trying to put their lives together. They have the need for multiple services, but they don't know where to go,” Fieldman said.
Seventy-five percent of Oregon already had 211 when the Ford Family Foundation announced in February it would give $366,000 to help extend the service to rural Oregonians. Douglas County has been one of the beneficiaries.
“We're really excited it's finally coming to Douglas County. Without the Ford grant, it wouldn't have happened as quickly. The Ford grant was a real help in making it happen now,” Fieldman said.
All Oregonians are expected to have 211 coverage by 2013.
Fieldman said 211 takes some of the burden off 911 phone lines.
The 211 line will be especially useful if disaster strikes, Fieldman said. Callers can find out where to get sandbags or shelter, he said.
“As people understand it, it's really growing,” Fieldman said. “It' going to be a real one-stop information center for a variety of things.”
The operators are trained to spend about 10 minutes with each caller.
“They really work with the caller to try to find out what the real needs are and do the referrals,” Fieldman said.