News : Hunterdon Helpline: One Call Accesses Network of Help
Flemington, NJ, USA, Nov 24, 2015 -- Someone who calls Hunterdon Helpline won't be greeted with a menu of options to sort through. That call will be picked up by a community resource specialist like Atina Erwin or Max Galuppo.
It's part of Hunterdon Helpline's First Assist service, a 24 hours a day, seven days a week program that people reach by calling 908-782-4357 or 800-272-4630.
First Assist "says to somebody, no matter what your problem, we are your port of entry," said Susan Lax, Helpline's executive director. "We work with all the organizations in the county to provide whatever services are needed, whether that's mental health, suicide prevention, help with utility bills or something else."
Often the first call someone makes will be for a specific need, like utility assistance, Lax said. But that's just the start of things for Helpline.
"When someone calls us, we're doing case management to really discern what the needs are," Lax said. "What's going to prevent them from being in this situation again?" Maybe the real issue is underemployment or unemployment, or maybe a medical crisis occurred that affected a family's finances. "Often it's a chain reaction," Lax said.
Helpline works with 1,500 programs and services in Hunterdon County, Lax said.
"The overall mission of Helpline is not just to provide referrals, but to know who these people are we're referring callers to," she added.
"We are right smack in the heart of Hunterdon County, and work face to face with these organizations. We're not just a call center somewhere else trying to fit pieces of a puzzle together."
Helpline serves more than individual callers. Lax said the group often gets calls from other social service agencies working with people who have multiple needs. "A director will call and say, 'I've gotten them this far, where can I send them now?'" Lax said.
Helpline workers knit together services that fill all a client's needs, Lax said.
IRis, a computerized information referral system, helps with that.
A community resource specialist gathers detailed information from a caller and then matches the needs with services provided by agencies in the county. The services are listed alphabetically, from addictions, cancers, disabilities on to utility assistance.
IRis helps the specialists follow up to make sure needs are being met, as well. It's all confidential, Lax said.
Helpline's not only available around the clock. Its staff can work remotely, too, with calls transferred to their cell phones. "When we had Sandy, there were no excuses," Lax said. "We don't have to worry about staff not showing up."
In trying to figure out a way to reach people on the street, Lax was thrilled to find out the Link public transit system can accept advertising. Now as a Link bus runs its route, it spreads word of Helpline's services.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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About Hunterdon Helpline:
Offers assistance to individuals and non-profits as well as a free calendar of events and agency listings for area non-profits.
Published: Friday, November 27, 2015