Welcome to the February edition of Aging and Still Engaging. The content of this month’s column has been provided by Monica Anderson, resource specialist with the United Way of San Luis Obispo County, who describes the agency’s 2-1-1 program and how it benefits the local community at large.
Each month, 2-1-1 SLO County receives almost 400 calls and texts from individuals requesting information about valuable community resources. While SLO County boasts a multitude of government, community-based, and non-profit health and human service agencies, the process for referring to and accessing those services can be cumbersome and confusing, especially when they are experiencing multiple and complex needs. In the past 2 years, almost 8,000 people have been helped by 2-1-1 SLO County, a program of United Way that began in 2010.
Callers have a simple, easy to remember 3-digit telephone number available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. 2-1-1 is a non-emergency one-stop shop to get timely access to health and human service information and referrals. The phone line is always free, confidential, and provides multilingual assistance. Information on available services can also be found by texting your zip code to 898211, or by searching 211slo.org.
Calls to 2-1-1 can provide general information about an agency or the agencies’ programs. Calls cover a wide gambit, but the highest needs have been food, rent and utility assistance, mental health hotlines, legal aid, and housing. The age of callers also covers a wide range, but more than a third of the callers are those over the age of 55, followed by those ages 30-54 –- another third of 2-1-1 callers. Contact specialists are recruited and specially trained to answer information, referral, crisis and support calls. Folks at 2-1-1 can pre-screen clients and refer only those who meet eligibility guidelines set by the agencies and programs. This ensures that 2-1-1 can provide the caller and the agency the opportunity to utilize local resources efficiently.
Since January 2017, four San Luis Obispo (SLO) County agencies (United Way of San Luis Obispo County, SLO County Victim Witness Department, Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo, and San Luis Obispo County Office of Education) have been working in collaboration on a community resource project to help promote an accessible pathway for individuals to receive services. Four Resource Specialists now serve San Luis Obispo County, managing and maintaining relationships with all community health and human service agencies. Resource Specialists provide presentations to community groups, schools, and county programs to promote 2-1-1 and its work, and collaborate with advocates, teachers, and counselors on how to access resources. They also help service providers connect individuals with available resources via outreach events and trainings to promote 2-1-1 as the singular resource directory.
The program currently refers to roughly 500 local organizations, with almost 900 programs, serving San Luis Obispo County. United Way stresses the importance of ensuring that resource information on the 2-1-1 database is always current and accurate. If you are interested in learning more about 2-1-1 SLO County or scheduling a 2-1-1 presentation, email Monica at the United Way of San Luis Obispo County at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The San Luis Obispo County Commission on Aging invites the public to join them at the Veteran’s Hall on Grand Ave. in San Luis Obispo on Friday, February 16, from 10 a.m. – Noon. The presentation that day will be on “Community Services to Aid Senior Independent Living,” and feature guest speakers Mark Shaffer from Ride-On Transportation and Elias Nimah from Meals that Connect. For more information about the Commission on Aging, visit www.slocounty.ca.gov/coa.htm, or call 235-5779.