News : Call Center Makes Gains
CAIRO, Aug 1, 2012 -- United Way’s 211 needs you.
That was the message to the 48 health and human service provider representatives from Greene and Columbia counties that turned out Tuesday morning at a reintroduction of how the national, confidential help and referral telephone number can widen their services.
"Two-one-one is a referral," United Way 211 Hudson Valley Region Outreach and Emergency Management Director Pat Anderson told the attendees, "not the direct service provider."
Anderson, along with United Way of Columbia and Greene Counties Executive Director Brad Poster moderated the briefing that led into a short question-and-answer period at the Greene County 911 Emergency Services Building in Cairo.
Assemblyman Pete Lopez, United Way Manager of Public Policy and Grants Administration Amy Clinton and Columbia County Department of Social Services Commissioner Paul Mossman were invited to make opening remarks regarding their experience with the 211 Call Center.
Agencies including the Columbia County Department of Human Services, Sacred Heart/Our Lady of Knock Shrine, New York State Disaster Case Management and Greene County Public Health attended the event and Mossman asked that they keep an open mind when considering what 211 can do for the services their agency provides.
Mossman said he was skeptical of the 211 Call Center when he first met with Anderson earlier this year, as he said previous experiences were not good.
"We took the tour and I was impressed with the way the calls were handled in both time and information provided to callers," Mossman said. "Two-one-one in Columbia County would help our EOC [Emergency Operations Center] to handle their time more efficiently."
Lopez said 211’s service would have been a tremendous help during and following Tropical Storm Irene
"It’s almost, for those of us that lived through Irene, like we have had a year of our life ripped away from us," Lopez said adding a year later he is still getting calls regarding the storm.
"No matter how hard we work, there is still work to be done," Lopez said, "and it is important to help make dollars go further."
By utilizing 211 it would fit with a model that the assemblyman said is essential — working smarter.
"This program is one of those ways of doing so," he said.
Clinton gave an overview of how 211 works and the services it provides.
"This is a service that is good for everyone," Clinton said. "Information from callers can give community leaders a quick and efficient snapshot at what is going on in the 12 counties by zip code. It’s also very good for residents and new comers looking for services in the community."
When 211 changed hands several years ago, Poster said he wanted to reintroduce it back into the community. He started by bringing in the commissioners from Columbia and Greene County Department of Social Services earlier this year followed by last week’s tour of the White Plains 211 Call Center by Greene County Department of Emergency Services Director John Farrell and Columbia County 911 Department Director Robert Lopez.
Greene County Public Health Director Marie Ostoyich asked Anderson if there was the ability to text from cell phones when phone lines go down during storms.
"Not yet," Anderson said. "However, specialists can be set up from home during emergencies like Irene when people could not make it to the call center."
Additionally, this allows for the website to continually be updated.
Columbia County Department of Human Services Administrative Assistant to the Director Jeanne Stupplebeen said there were issues reaching 211 from her office, saying that it was busy every time she tried to reach the call center.
"If you have to dial 9 before you can dial out," Anderson informed, "the system provider needs to adjust the line."
The issue with finding the line busy due to having to call from an outside office line is something that isn’t uncommon and Anderson encourages agencies registered within the 211 database and anyone in need of reaching the call center to contact her for specific instructions to remedy the issue.
Few of those that attended the meeting knew that they could have their services updated and placed with in the 211 database. But that was the point of the gathering, to educate the providers and for those that weren’t registered in the database.
Registration requires a completed profile form that would include information about the agency and then the list of programs and specific services that agency provides.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
About United Way:
United Way is a coalition of charitable organizations.
Published: Thursday, August 02, 2012
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