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Getting the 411 on 211

Getting the 411 on 211

We all know to call 911 for an emergency and 411 for information, but what if you need information when something doesn’t qualify as an emergency but could have serious and lasting effects on your life?

That’s when you call 211.

211 is a free information and referral service connecting residents to vital resources. When a caller dials 2-1-1, they are connected to a call center with well-trained community support advisors who have access to a comprehensive database of services. The 2-1-1 program provides a vital link between Tulare County residents and available resources and services. For example, 2-1-1 Tulare County offers access to the following types of services:

• Basic Human Needs Resource: food banks, CalFresh benefits, clothing, shelters, rent assistance, utility assistance

• Physical and Mental Health Resources: medical information lines, crisis intervention services, support groups, counseling, drug and alcohol intervention, rehabilitation, health insurance programs, Medicaid and Medicare, maternal health and childrens health insurance programs

• Disaster Response: 2-1-1 plays an integral in Tulare County’s emergency operations plan, e.g. How to prepare and prevent flooding, flood reporting hotline, information on road closures, information on warming and cooling centers

• Employment Support: unemployment benefits, financial assistance, job training, transportation assistance, education programs

• Support for older Americans and persons with disabilities: home health care, adult day care, Meals on Wheels, respite care and transportation

• Support for children, youth and families: quality childcare, Success by 6, after school programs, Head Start, family resource centers, summer camps and recreation programs, mentoring, tutoring and protective services

• Volunteer opportunities and donations

“A job loss, mental health issues, natural disaster and many other forces impact your life. We believe that finding the help you need should because the sooner you can find it the sooner you can be back on your feet again,” reads the program’s website, www.211tularecounty.org.

211 Tulare County Program Coordinator Jeremy Petty said the program started in Los Angeles and has now branched out to regional call centers throughout California. The program connects people in need with resources for everything from something as basic as food stamps to issues as complicated as home mortgages. The program also offers more than 200 languages just by dialing 211 or through the website.

“You can call the number for anything and you don’t have to be the person who needs help,” Petty said. “You can call for friend and pass on the information to them.”

For example, one caller was on disability due to a car accident and fell behind on his bills because he couldn’t return to work. He was referred to 2-1-1 by Tulare County Cal-Works and 2-1-1 connected him to CSET, who assisted with his electric bill in the amount of $330. The man is now recuperating and is very thankful for the assistance he obtained from CSET and for the follow-up as well, according to 211’s 2012 Annual Report.

In 2012, 2-1-1 Tulare County received 10,158 calls for information and referral. Of these calls, 41% were for housing and utilities assistance, 11% were identified as information for family and community support services, 11% were for food and meals, 5% were for clothing and personal/household needs, 7% were for legal/consumer/public safety services, 6% were for mental health/addiction services, and 3% were for basic health care. Of the more than 10,000 calls, about 78% of callers are women and a quarter of callers are Hispanic. The calls represented more than 7,000 youth (0-17 years old).

In Tulare County’s Supervisorial District 1 – which encompasses Exeter, Farmersville, Lindsay, Lemon Cove, Three Rivers and Strathmore – most of the calls received were from people in Exeter and the top need was rental and utility payment assistance. Most callers in District 1 were Hispanic (60%) adults between the ages of 26-59 (27%). Statistics in Tulare County’s Supervisorial District 4 – which encompasses Woodlake, Ivanhoe, Dinuba, Orosi, Cutler, Goshen and Traver – were similar. Most of the calls were received from Dinuba and Woodlake for rent and utility payment assistance. Most callers in District 4 were Hispanic (69%) adults between the ages of 26-59 (30%).

The number one resource called in District 1 was the Lindsay Strathmore Coordinating Council, which offers food distributions, utility assistance and operates a thrift store in downtown Lindsay for residents in Tonyville, Lindsay and Strathmore. The top resource in District 4 was Open Gate Ministries in Dinuba, which offers programs for the homeless and hungry in northern Tulare County and Southern Fresno County.

If any providers are interested in adding their company, organization or public agency to the 211 database, Petty said they should call United Way of Tulare County at 559-685-1766. 211 program business hours are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. You can also log onto 211tularecounty.org and review the inclusion/exclusion policies.

The program is primarily funded through Health and Human Services Agency’s Mental Health Prevention and Early Intervention program, TulareWORKS employment program and First 5 of Tulare County.

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