211: A Little Known Help Number

Most of us know to call 911 if we need emergency assistance. And calling 411 brings directory assistance. But what if a person needs help but doesn’t know where to start? Call 211.

After calling 211, an individual may be asked for their zip code. Upon getting that information, trained operators will be able to pull up an extensive network of resources specific to a community. They can answer questions about what to do if a person can’t pay the rent, or needs transportation, needs to find a free meal close to home, or is having difficulty coping.

This was just one “resource” mentioned by Amanda Michaelis during Saline County’s Health Advisory Council that surprised some in the audience. It is part of a nationwide network, and is funded in part through United Way. As physician Jacob Hodges noted, healthcare providers who are new to the community may not know where to send individuals for help.

Development of a Community Program Inventory Assessment was one need the Council could help address. Health Department Coordinator Jason Tiller urged the Council to think broader, bigger and envision what a healthier Saline County might look like in five years. Attendee Jim Leckleiter suggested that perhaps this resource information could be placed in some kind of ap or website for the community to be able to access.

At their first meeting, Tiller provided Council members with background on HD programs and the recently completed Community Needs Health Assessment. For the second meeting, Tiller asked members to identify what they feel are the greatest needs.

Ron Kramer began by identifying drug abuse education/prevention. Tom Bell quickly broadened the issue to include behavioral health. Physician David Dupy described a shortage of local beds to treat behavioral health issues as well as a need for mental health professionals skilled in working with children and teens.

Crisis intervention services, sexually transmitted infections, HIV, teen pregnancy, premature births, sexual promiscuity, childhood poverty, and oral health were some of the topics mentioned. Kramer spoke of a lack of hope, or a sense of futility among some who won’t seek resources. Gwenda Philbrook spoke of challenges in applying for services and Michaelis commented that each agency uses their own forms. Council members wondered if health insurance navigators (who help people sign up for “Obamacare”) might be able to help.

When discussing what keeps them up at night, the conversation returned to behavioral health issues that link to addiction. Philbrook noted this was the key issue identified four years prior, and significant progress has been made in those four years. But, there still are some unmet needs.

The Health Advisory Council will continue its discussions. It meets every second Tuesday, at 4:00 PM, at the Saline County Health Department.

Story by: Karen Shade for KSAL News

Copyright © Alpha Media, 2015.  All Rights Reserved. No part of this story or website may be reproduced without Alpha Media’s express consent