New help-line phone service coming to Hood River County

Jan. 8, 2011

The Oregon Community Foundation has awarded funds to bring a new human services help-line to Hood River County with a grant of $45,000 to the Portland-based 211info nonprofit organization.

The FCC-designated phone number, 2-1-1, provides callers with free confidential referrals to food, shelter, legal services, housing and foreclosure assistance, utility assistance, health care and additional county specific service providers.

According to 211info staff, the easy-dial 2-1-1 phone number currently connects Portland metro and Bend area residents of Oregon (along with southwest Washington) to community service referrals through a live operator system.

With funds from the OCF grant, 211info is now in the process of collecting Hood River County human resource information and updating their statewide database.

The organization estimates phone-line service delivery specific to Hood River County will become available in May 2011.

Once Hood River County is fully included in the 211 system, dialing 2-1-1 will connect callers with a live, trained call center specialist who will assess the situation, provide an understanding of resource offerings in Hood River county that fit the caller's needs and assist in the identification of available public and private sources of help.

The organization will offer online search services as well. By visiting 211info.org, residents may gain access to the same comprehensively researched community resources the call center specialists utilize.

As part of the 211info program, Hood River County service providers will also be able to update their records instantly, keeping the public abreast of their latest organizational developments and press releases.

The OCF grant provides enough funding to get the system online and functional. Through a negotiation with local agencies, 211info will ensure that ongoing maintenance of the county data base will be provided through local staff.

After the initial start-up period, the ongoing costs to operate the local access line are estimated to run at approximately $11,000 per year.

In many other regions, ongoing costs are shared by partnerships between governmental agencies, United Way organizations and other service providers. Hood River representatives will determine how funding will continue.

The Oregon Community Foundation offered 211info this grant award to support its ongoing Parent Education Regional Action Initiative, for Hood River and the Portland metro areas.

"OCF saw that many of the services parents need to become more educated caretakers are scattered between many agencies," said Liesl Wendt, CEO of 211info. "Funding the 2-1-1 system helps make parent education resources more easily available."

Last year, more than 100,000 people called 2-1-1 for referral assistance. The 211info help-line service is a robust information hub developed over 25 years of human service resource information collection and referral provision. The organization currently manages a database of more than 4,200 community resource information files.

Local residents may already use the online search service if seeking referrals to Portland metro area human services.

Nationwide, 2-1-1 covers 80 percent of the population. In Oregon, 211info's service currently extends to nearly half of the state population. The service covers seven counties in Oregon and four counties in southwest Washington, helping the whole community service system operate more efficiently.

For human service provider staff persons, 211info access allows professionals, such as case managers, hospital staff, therapists and clergy, to quickly identify services available for their clients with one phone call or website visit.

211info also helps nonprofit and government agencies to work more efficiently by preparing 2-1-1 callers for success, often explaining program qualification requirements in advance of their agency calls.

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