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News : United Way 2-1-1 Call Center Now Offering 24/7 Services
Broome County, NY, USA, Sept 7, 2015 -- Help is now available 24/7 to residents across the region looking for information on local health and human services.
The United Way of Broome County has expanded the hours of its 2-1-1 call center, known as the 2-1-1 Susquehanna River Region call center, which services Broome, Tioga, Chenango, Delaware and Otsego counties.
Residents in those counties can now dial 2-1-1 at any time — day or night, weekday or weekend — to speak to a call center staff member.
The call center connects residents with local agencies and programs offering different types of assistance, from food pantries to mental health services to employment training.
Candace Gregory, the call center’s director, said the expansion of services was important in making the center’s resources accessible to more people.
"People don’t always have access to phones during the daytime hours when they’re working," Gregory said. "It’s good to have the service up and running (24/7) so that folks who do work are able to access it in the evening."
The call center, which has five employees, had previously been open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, expanding its hours during emergencies or natural disasters, like the flood of 2011.
It officially made the move to 24/7 in June, contracting with another 2-1-1 call center that is 24/7 with funding help from the state, Gregory said.
That call center is able to access the Susquehanna River Region center’s intake and database during the hours its staff is not manning the phone lines, Gregory said.
"It’s very, very seamless for the callers," she said.
In addition to the expanded hours, the call center also launched a new website.
The site has a searchable database of thousands of local programs and services, with categories like food, housing, clothing, utilities and mental health.
The mobile version of the website allows case workers and others to access information about services right from their cell phones, Gregory said.
Alan Hertel, the executive director of United Way of Broome County, said in a press release late last month that residents who use the 2-1-1 service understand its impact.
"They receive quick and accurate information to help them with any challenges they may face," Hertel said.
He said the United Way of Broome County was "thrilled" about the new 24/7 availability of the service.
In the last three years, the 2-1-1 Susquehanna River Region call center has handled more than 165,000 inquires, according to the United Way of Broome County. Last year, the center received more than 59,000 calls.
Gregory said the human services realm can be confusing, and one of the purposes of the call center is to help people get through the "maze of human services" and reach the specific answers or resources they need.
"We try to stay as current as possible so if someone is looking for something in particular, we can point them in the right direction (and) save them (the) time and energy of making call after call after call," she said. "It also saves agencies time and energy not fielding calls that are not specific to what they do."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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United Way is a coalition of charitable organizations.
Published: Wednesday, September 9, 2015