Lantana, FL, June 6, 2016– Through a partnership with Quantum Foundation, 211 HelpLine conducted a yearlong research study to follow-up on referrals that were provided to callers of 211’s Resource Center. The purpose of this study was two-fold: 1) to determine the responsiveness of the service delivery system and whether or not the referral(s) provided by 211 met the needs of the callers, and 2) to measure the callers’ satisfaction with the service provided by 211’s Resource Center Specialists.
Through conversations with different community entities, 211 knew there was a need to close the loop – when a caller calls 211, the 211 Specialist provides referrals to community resources based on the need(s) expressed by the caller and then the caller takes that information and contacts the service provider(s). However, 211 has no way of knowing if the caller actually was able to access the service(s) provided unless the caller calls 211 again.
With support and funding from Quantum Foundation, 211 engaged the services of an independent researcher for one year to execute this research project. The researcher provided follow-up calls to a sample of 1,052 random (voluntary) callers from Palm Beach, Indian River, St. Lucie, Okeechobee and Martin Counties and analyzed the outcomes of each call through a survey tool that was based on the Alliance for Information & Referral Systems (AIRS) guide. AIRS is 211’s national accrediting body and is the driving force behind clear and consistent professional standards that benchmark every aspect of quality Information & Referral (I&R).
“A strong community needs strong nonprofits,” said Eric M. Kelley, President of Quantum Foundation. “As a health funder we want to be sure that the service system is responsive to those in need and that our funds are truly benefiting those we seek to serve – the people of Palm Beach County. Further, we believe this community feedback provides relevant information to 211 to ensure that it is effective in connecting people with the help they need.”
For sometime, the community has been aware of major gaps in community services and the results of this study validated this exact point – especially in regard to the major shortage in housing and shelter services, along with the fluctuating availability of utility support services.
Across the board, in many service areas, programs were found to be out of funds; were wait listed, or in some cases the caller did not receive a call back. As anticipated, callers in Palm Beach County expressed frustration in regard to the homeless clearinghouse (not enough space), as well as low-income housing not being affordable for many callers.
“On a daily basis 211 HelpLine staff have a sense of how responsive the system of services is throughout the five county region,” reported Susan K. Buza, CEO/President of 211 Palm Beach/Treasure Coast. “This study however, for the first time validates 211’s anecdotal understanding of the major gaps in services.”
Interestingly, the research discovered that many of the callers did not follow through on the referrals given to them and many people had seemingly just given up on trying to get the help they need. About 40% of the callers, did however come up with their own solutions for solving their problems. The Specialist’s may have played a role in this, mainly because they are highly-trained to help callers creatively problem solve if the formal system is not likely to meet their need(s).
Overall, the callers’ evaluation of 211 was very positive, even if they were not able to receive any assistance from the provided referrals. The majority of the callers were able to distinguish between the community human service system not being able to meet their need(s) and the value of having the 211 service available to them, showcasing that 211 is a valuable resource in the community.
“It is gratifying to see that callers to 211 appreciate the role 211 plays in providing them with someone who listens and someone who cares,” said Sharon L’Herrou, 211’s VP of Operations.
For a copy of the research study in its entirety, please contact Susan Buza, 211’s President/CEO at email@example.com or 561-533-1099.
About 211 HelpLine
211 HelpLine is a non-profit organization, servicing Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast. 211 is a confidential, non-judgmental helpline available 24/7 to individuals who find themselves in a situation without knowing whom to contact in order to obtain the information, referrals or answers to the problems they are facing. 211 is essentially the “gateway” to all other health, human service and governmental organizations in the community and can be accessed by simply dialing 2-1-1.
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If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Tara Murray, VP of Community Affairs at 561-383-1128 or email at Tara.firstname.lastname@example.org.