News : County Keeps 211 Helpline Going
April 4, 2014 -- With budget workshops starting next week, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors have kept the struggling local 211 Helpline afloat, requesting that cities step up with funds.
The board voted 4-1 at its meeting, with 4th District Supervisor Peter Adam dissenting, to provide one-time county funds to update the 211 Helpline’s outdated resource database over the next four to six months. Supervisors also decided to make the Community Action Commission the program’s local host in charge of the helpline’s day-to-day operations, development and outreach.
The 211 Helpline connects vulnerable callers throughout the county with services and providers, a task complicated by a resource database that hasn’t been updated in more than six years.
"CAC will run it," said Executive Director Fran Forman. "We’ll do a good job, but we need the funding."
Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino said he supports the helpline, but that he cannot fully back the county’s investment unless there’s a plan to increase outreach and advertising. The program has not been officially advertised in more than two years, according to Santa Barbara County Assistant CEO Terri Nisich.
"We spend a half million dollars a year on social services in this county," said Lavagnino. "We need to spend the money to let people know where to access those services."
With CAC now ready to take the lead and funds allocated to updating the database, Nisich and many of the supervisors believe cities may be more willing to step up.
"Our investment in the database allows us to achieve all of the objectives that (the cities} wanted, and I’m hopeful that they will come onboard before our budget time in some meaningful way," said 1st District Supervisor Salud Carbajal.
Supervisors largely supported the program, both as a service to address residents’ daily needs and as a way to communicate with people during emergencies.
"You can have a website, and you can have county TV, but the first thing that happens is the power goes out," said 3rd District Supervisor Doreen Farr. "Anybody with a cellphone can still make a call to get the information that they need."
Interface Children & Family Services, a nonprofit based in Ventura, will run the call center for Santa Barbara County, should funding allow the program to continue. Interface also services 17 other counties.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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