2-1-1 initiative vital resource hub during coronavirus pandemic

The 2-1-1 initiative is a statewide resource hub that recently has been updated to best fit the needs of the growing coronavirus pandemic. While 2-1-1 is typically a database for personal crisis, it has morphed into a disaster database, focusing on community needs and altering the way certain agencies function and offer relief.

“Since Monday, I have been working on getting resources updated on this database. Some agencies may be closed and others may be offering extra services,” Lake Martin Area United Way executive director Sharon Fuller said.

The call system was developed after Hurricane Katrina when it was evident Alabama was not prepared to launch resources statewide. Now, anybody within the state can call this number, enter his or her zip code and speak with a live person who can pull up a relevant location-based list.

“2-1-1 should be two-fold,” Fuller said. “It’s a resource to call to get help and also a place to call if you want to offer help.”

Fuller said all 2-1-1 call centers have recently increased by 3%. All of the questions were related to the coronavirus pandemic and 2-1-1 operators are working remotely by answering calls from their homes.

Fuller said it’s crucial to promote the benefit of calling 2-1-1, so people in need know where to turn. Call centers are equipped with AIRS-certified personnel, trained to know how to handle people in crisis situations.

“The good thing is that it’s not just offered to us here; it’s anywhere in the state,” Fuller said. “So people wanting to know about other towns on behalf of their families can call and find that information.”

If resources for what’s requested cannot be found locally, 2-1-1 will offer the closest town where a person is located. 

This ongoing, ever-changing list provides a new normal for everyone.

“This is not typical disaster mode,” Fuller said. “When we think of natural disaster, this is new. No one has any experience in what to do. It will be an everyday thing.”

Due to the unique situation of COVID-19, the needs that will arise are still evolving.

“If there comes to be problems that we don’t have a solution for, we’ll figure out a way to help,” Fuller said. “We don’t know what all the needs are yet.”

Thinking ahead to long-term goals, Fuller also said there might be a food distribution issue. In this scenario, the local food bank is already on standby to create hundreds of boxes filled with food supplies for one week.

“At least I know if that need exists, we can get something up and running within a day,” she said. “It’s tough. I think things are going to get worse before they get better.”