2-1-1 Monterey County was launched in February 11, 2009. The 2-1-1 Service is an easy to remember and easy to use toll-free phone number that is set aside for public assistance by providing referrals to health and human services and for disaster assistance. Through 2-1-1, information and referral services are provided by live, trained call specialists, 24 hours a day with multilingual support. United Way Worldwide (formerly United Way of America) has been instrumental in developing 2-1-1 across the U.S. since 1997. Over 200 2-1-1 systems are presently active in all or part of 46 states plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico. As of April 2009, 2-1-1 serves over 240 million people in the U.S., over 80% of the U.S. population.
Within California, the authorization for 2-1-1 Services is under the jurisdiction of the Public Utilities Commission. Implementation occurs at the county level. In 2007, UWMC conducted a feasibility study for the establishment of 2-1-1 in Monterey County. Further development of a business plan was facilitated by a 2-1-1 Steering Committee and several subcommittees composed of representatives of government and nonprofit organizations. The multiple perspectives afforded to UWMC by the Committees resulted in the successful establishment and launching of 2-1-1. Broad based marketing and coordination among key service providers quickly spread the word about 2-1-1 with thousands of calls handled every month.
While Monterey County supports rich cultural, social, and environmental diversity and a thriving service and agricultural industrial base, an alarming number of community members face daily challenges. Over 16% of children (under 17 years of age) in Monterey County live below the poverty level (American Community Survey, 2007). A total of 50,000 Monterey County residents require food assistance on a monthly basis (Food Bank for Monterey County). Unemployment was at 10.2% as of August 2009 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) and low-income, seasonal labor represents a large portion of the county’s workforce. People with disabilities total 46,183 in the county, with an estimated 4% of the 15,978 residents ages 65 years or older reported as having a disability (US Census). The current housing crisis continues to impact Monterey County residents with a combination of foreclosures and reduction in rental assistance programs.
In addition to a multitude of economic, social, cultural, geographic, educational, and language barriers, many Monterey County residents find themselves “lost in the service system” and unable to find needed help. Language and transportation barriers and inadequate access to information, not to mention fear, isolation, and confusion related to navigating through the service support network, prevent many community members from accessing available resources. Moreover, service providers are alarmed by the disparity of access to services and are aware that they are not reaching many community members in need of assistance. The complex nature of the service delivery system is perplexing not only to community members. Service providers themselves are overwhelmed by constantly changing programs and services which result in a lack of awareness of up-to-date community resources. Ultimately, this produces ineffective service referral and fragmented agency coordination that impedes holistic service delivery.
Not From Monterey County?
If you aren’t a resident of Monterey County and are interested in getting connected with your local 2-1-1 program, visit www.211.org to learn about the program in your area.