Connecting with respirces

211 call center services explained

A call center staff member takes a call and directs her client to the appropriate resources. Officials are working to spread the word about 211, a number that can be called 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year for assistance with anything from housing to home care services. Trained call center staff members at the Upper Peninsula Commission for Area Progress 211 Call Center can help direct a person to appropriate agencies in their area that can connect them with the resources they need. (National Cancer Institute photo)

MARQUETTE — For older adults and their caregivers, it can sometimes be difficult to know who to call or where to turn when resources such as home services, housing or long-term care programs are needed.

However, officials are working to spread the word about 211, a free, confidential number that anyone can call 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year, to get connected with assistance and resources in their area.

The 211 service, which is administered by the Upper Peninsula Commission for Area Progress, or UPCAP, in the Upper Peninsula, was the topic of a talk given to the Ishpeming Rotary Club Tuesday night by Cheryl Goc, a resource associate/engagement specialist at UPCAP.

“So what is 211? It’s an easy to remember three-digit number that will get you a real person,” Goc said, adding that there is never a time when 211 is without a call specialist, even when the power goes out.

The mission of 211, she said, is to provide “easy, accessible and responsive professional” answers to callers, which is important because many “are in crisis and they don’t know where to turn.”

Cheryl Goc, a resource associate/engagement specialist at the Upper Peninsula Commission for Area Progress 211 Call Center, gives a presentation Tuesday night to the Ishpeming Rotary about 211 and the resources it offers. Calling 211 can help older adults connect with UPCAP resources, speak with a Michigan Medicare/Medicaid Assistance Program counselor, find home care services, identify agencies who can provide long-term care, and more. (Journal photo by Cecilia Brown)

“It’s a critical connection between people in our community and the needs that they have,” Goc said.

The 211 service, which can be called throughout Michigan, aims to help people navigate the often complex web of providers and agencies by providing information on the services available in a person’s area and what resources may be appropriate for their specific situation.

Before 211, Goc said it could be unclear who to call for specific resources and questions, but through 211, people can speak to a real person about anything from care options for seniors, to housing and utility assistance, to childcare, to educational programming, to health insurance and more.

“If there are numbers out there that you don’t know if you’ll ever remember, definitely call 211 and the call specialist will find out for you,” she said. “And we can tap into the rest of the state of Michigan as well. If you need information (for) a loved one down in Wayne County, we can transfer that call to find out what kind of services would be available for your loved one in Wayne County, even though we’re up in Escanaba.”

Goc also explained a few things that 211 is not: it’s not a substitute for directory assistance, 911, or a crisis line, but call center staff will always try to help get someone connected to the appropriate line, she said

Older adults and caregivers can access a wealth of resources through UPCAP and 211, Goc said, noting that “it allows you to get help other than just online.”

“We are the Area Agency on Aging down at UPCAP, so a lot of our programs are geared toward the elderly,” Goc said.

For those who may have questions about Medicare or Medicaid, almost all of the call specialists at 211 are trained Michigan Medicare/Medicaid counselors and can provide assistance and resources, she said.

“You can call and talk to one of our trained counselors,” she said. “And if they’re not available, they’ll put you on a callback list and someone will get back to you within 24 hours.”

The 211 service can also help connect older adults with UPCAP’s Care Management Program, which helps seniors and/or those with disabilities find out if in-home services can support them in their residence or another setting in the community.

“We have a care management program that goes into the homes of the elderly to make sure that they have the services that they need so that they can stay in their home healthy and safe,” Goc said.

She gave an example of an older man who “wants to stay in his home but he needs somebody to come in and bathe him and shave him and get his groceries.”

If the man or one his family members was to call 211, the call center staff could do the initial screening for the program over the phone to determine if a person or their loved one may be eligible for a care management evaluation, she said.

If it’s determined that the man would be appropriate for the evaluation, then a care management team consisting of a nurse and a social worker would go into the man’s home to assess his home, his health, and his needs, Goc said.

Once completed, “they’re going to set up those services for him so that he can remain in his home, where he wants to be,” Goc said.

Overall, Goc emphasized that there’s a wide array of resources that people can connect with through 211 — and no matter what a person is requesting assistance with, the staff at 211 aims to help them and find a solution.

“We will never tell anyone we can’t help you,” she said.

For more information on UPCAP, visit http://upcap.org/.

To learn more about 211 in Michigan and locate resources, visit www.mi211.org

Dial 211 to contact the 211 Center. For those with rotary phones, dial 1-800-305-8137. Out of area and alternate numbers can call 1-800-338-1119.

To find out more about the Ishpeming Rotary Club and upcoming events, visit https://www.facebook.com/IshpemingRotaryClub/