The United Way of Bradley County urged local social service agencies and organizations to join the 2-1-1 movement Thursday morning at the Cleveland/Bradley County Chamber of Commerce.
The informational meeting provided an inside look at the much touted social services and support number.
Danielle Seals of United Way described 2-1-1 as a one-stop shop. The number is set up to connect those in need to services in their community. Trained specialists answer the calls and make referrals based on need, eligibility and proximity. Residents in both Bradley and Polk counties will be able to call the number.
However, the service will only work if local agencies and organizations work hand-in-hand with 2-1-1 and United Way.
“We are really excited about this new resource. We are excited to get you connected to it,” Seals said. “The more people we can funnel to 2-1-1, the easier it is going to be to [set up] a one-stop shop.”
Information on an organization or agency can be uploaded at either www.211tn.org or www.ocoeecan.org.
Personnel from a variety of agencies and organizations listened attentively as first Seals and then President and CEO of the United Way Matt Ryerson spoke on the new service.
“Honestly, we are a little bit overwhelmed with this reception. We had actually planned for 35 to 45,” he said. “We are really excited to see this amount of support and coming in here and hearing so many of you already walk up and say you are so excited about this program.”
He mentioned four benefits of each service organization, whether nonprofit, faith-based or other, logging their program information into the call center’s database.
n Calling 2-1-1 will connect clients to the resources they need.
“There are trained professionals at the call center. They are trained to dive in when the doors open,” Ryerson said. “If someone calls for rent and utilities assistance, they have phone numbers to refer that person.”
He added the operators might take the referrals a step further, if an individual provides more of their story. A client who called for medical aid might also receive information on job skill development program opportunities, if the operator finds out the individual is unemployed.
“They are not case managers, but what they do is essentially digging a little to provide resources beyond the initial call,” Ryerson said. “It doesn’t mean somebody can’t just call [for an after-school program], but the reality is [the operators] have the opportunity to dig deeper.”
n The 2-1-1 call center might help organizations avoid working outside of their mission.
Ryerson suggested diversion from the mission often occurs when one organization receives a call for a service not under their umbrella. Time is then taken away from the nonprofit’s organization when the individual goes in search of a service to meet the need of the caller.
He suggested organizations and agencies instead provide the callers with the 2-1-1 number.
n The 2-1-1 database will collect and create an up-to-date needs assessment with each call.
Specialists request a client’s name and address when a call is placed. This information helps the operator determine which resources are closest to the client. The information can be securely stored in the client management software ClientPoint. The specialist can pull up information in ClientPoint should the client need help in the future.
“One of the most exciting components for me is the needs assessment, where we can start making data-driven decisions,” Ryerson said.
n The 2-1-1 program will help organizations and agencies avoid duplication and protect limited resources.
“We have limited resources, right? The reality is there are limited pool funds; there are limited resources available to these people,” Ryerson said. “And 2-1-1, as we really pour into the system and determine its full capability, will allow us to better manage those resources.”
The service will launch Aug. 1.
For more information, call the United Way of Bradley County at 423-479-2020.