Washington 211 is operating the State COVID-19 Helpline (1-800-525-0127) for the Washington State Department of Health during the Coronavirus Outbreak. Normal 211 services are available but wait times have increased. If you need immediate assistance in finding services please visit www.wa211.org and use the resource search tool.
Washington 211 successfully took over operations of the Washington State Department of Health COVID-19 helpline on 3/6/20 after a very short and fast ramp up of our system. I have attached the latest call numbers for Washington 211, a report of the work we have accomplished to date and our original proposal to DOH to help the citizens of Washington State with their questions about COVID-19.
As you may know 211 does not have a dedicated source of funding from either the federal government or states. Each 211 in the country may receive some support from their state government but each must raise their own funding through grants, contracts and donations from United Ways. In Washington State, we have been lucky to have received funding from the State since we started in 2006, but is was at $500,000 a year until recently when we were able to advocate for an additional $500,000. It currently costs $4.3 million to operate Washington 211, which is at reduced capacity of 8:00-5:00 M-F. To operate at our current COVID-19 hours and capacity we would need an additional $2 million a year.
211 serves a very important role in our national health and human services system. Besides our support during crisis and disasters, we also assist with connecting health systems to Social Determinants of Health for patients, promote the Earned Income Tax Credit, help people to sign up for SNAP benefits, provide Non-academic student supports for you in poverty and provide navigation services for Veteran, senior, youth, homeless, transportation, employment and early childhood programs to name a few. It’s unfortunate that is takes a crisis like COVID-19 to prove 211’s value, but with this support we will be able to operate at a greater capacity and hopefully this will open the door for ongoing support of 211 at the federal level so that America is prepared for the next national crisis.
On March 8, 2020, Washington 211 signed a contract with the Washington State Department of Health to take over operations of the State COVID-19 Hotline. March 9, WA211 began ramping up to prepare to take COVID-19 calls. The following actions have been initiated:
• Began hiring for temporary call takers and recruiting volunteers
• Daily briefing calls with DOH Incident Commander
• Integrated DOH voice script into WA211 InContact IVR system
• Developed data collection forms in VisionLink CommunityOs system based on DOH template
• Developed notes tool for WA211 call taker scripting by integrating the DOH website FAQ’s
• Evening of March 10, tested WA211 system by having DOH transfer live calls for 30 minutes.
• March 11, began training existing and new call takers using live calls from DOH
• March 12, continued to share calls with DOH and train new and existing call takers
• March 12, WA211 Board voted to move to an emergency operation model which entails opening up statewide call sharing of COVID-19 calls with priority assigned to COVID-19 first and 211 secondary
• March 12, expanded operating hours from 8-5 M-F to 6am-10pm seven days a week
• March 13, WA211 system began taking all COVID-19 calls for the State of Washington
• Began implementing workforce management tool with InContact system to assist with statewide scheduling of call takers
• Implemented statewide communications to share DOH and CDC updates with call center leads
• Implemented daily standing Zoom meetings with DOH, WA211 Leadership and call center leads
• Created online video training to assist with offsite training of call takers.