211 social service hotline adapts to demands

  • Thu May 6th, 2010 10:30pm
  • News

People throughout Snohomish and Island counties can call 211 to find all sorts of social services including help with paying rent, finding work and getting emergency shelter and food.

It’s also a resource for people looking to volunteer their time.

The service was started in this region in 2006 and replaced an older 10-digit number to call for social service information.

United Way of Snohomish County and Volunteers of America Western Washington are the lead partners for North Sound 211, which also provides the service to San Juan, Skagit and Whatcom counties.

The agencies keep statistics for the services needed. Below is a snapshot of those statistics for the first three months of this year and how it compares to the same period in 2009.

Sharon Salyer, Herald Writer

Questions and answers

Has the economy played a role in the 35 percent increase in calls for domestic violence services during the first quarter of this year?

Vicci Hilty, deputy director of Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County said, “I can assure you the economy does play a part. It always does. It limits options. It’s another stressor. Stress comes out in violence.”

Has the increase in calls to 211 for information on domestic violence programs reflected an increase in domestic violence, or are people better informed on where to call for information?

“Actually we’re seeing a little downswing for the first quarter on our hotline,” Hilty said. “We’re really not sure why 211 is different. Maybe … the outreach they’ve done so well has really started to work. People are more comfortable calling them direct and getting information.

“One trend is overall (the number of cases) constantly keeps going up each year. That hasn’t stopped for years.”

Do you know why calls to 211 involving mental and behavioral health issues increased nearly 25 percent during the first three months of this year?

Tom Sebastian, chief executive of Compass Health said, “I think the economy absolutely has played a role. … We’ve experienced a higher demand for mental health services, particularly over the past three to six months.

“The other thing that seems to be happening is a more general growing awareness of mental health issues and the lack of stigma (in seeking mental health services).”

Calls seeking help finding child care rose slightly more than 45 percent during the first three months of this year. What do you think caused this increase?

Caterina Tassara, director of Family and Children’s Services for Volunteers of America, said, “families are faced with financial constraints. Some of them are looking for more inexpensive child care options. Families are having to make tough choices. We know the cost of care is a large part of a family’s income.”

Calls to the social service hotline

Here’s a look at calls to 211, Snohomish County’s social service hotline. For more information, click the stats link at www.voaww.org/211.

Trends this year

Call volumes during the first three months of this year — January through March — totaled 13,648, a 2 percent increase over the same period last year.

More men are calling 211, rising from 22.7 percent of calls during the first three months of 2009 to 24.9 percent this year.

Spanish-speaking callers, a total of 634, increased 6.9 percent over the first three months of 2009.

Bankruptcy calls rose from 17 in the first three months of 2009 to 28 this year.

Mortgage foreclosure calls rose from 25 in 2009 to 39 in 2010.

Calls that increased

Legal assistance: 782 calls, up 24.1 percent.

Child care: 151 calls, up 45.2 percent

Housing and low-cost housing: 692 calls, up 18.5 percent

Transportation: 454 calls, up 20.1 percent

Temporary financial aid: 361 calls, up 32.2 percent

Mental and behavioral health issues: 583 calls, up 24.8 percent

Domestic violence: 108 calls, up 35 percent

Substance abuse: 177 calls, up 64.2 percent

Calls that decreased

Social programs (such as basic health, SSI): 44 calls, down 33.3 percent

Food, food bank information: 448 calls, down 18.8 percent

Household, clothing, personal goods: 519 calls, down 12.2 percent

Utility bill assistance: 1,767 calls, down 10.7 percent

Rent/mortgage assistance, moving: 1,944 calls, down 2.75 percent

Source: 211 and Volunteers of America