Wyoming 2-1-1 program provides local support, network for rural communitiesWritten by Saige
A new program in Wyoming will help those who live in rural areas find services that may not be available in their local communities.
Wyoming 2-1-1 is part of a national program that was started a number of years ago by United Way, and Wyoming is among the last of the states to initiate the phone line. The program is a free, confidential, health and human services information and referral system that was launched in February 2011 and is supported by many different agencies.
“The goal is to provide one-stop shopping for community services and to lessen the impact on 9-1-1,” says Wyoming Stock Growers Association Executive Vice President Jim Magagna, who became involved in the program early on and is now the president of the board. “In Laramie County last year, 9-1-1 fielded over 4,000 calls, and they weren’t all emergencies. The idea is that, if you need to know where to find day care, a government agency or other public sector programs, you can call 2-1-1 or go to the website and they’ll assist you in finding the services you’re looking for.”
Currently the 2-1-1 service is operative in seven counties in southeast Wyoming.
“You can call the number statewide, but the database for local services is only available in seven counties right now,” says Magagna. “On Jan. 1 we plan to expand into Natrona County and all of northeast Wyoming, and by January 2013 or sooner we will have the database built statewide.”
Magagna says he was asked to be a part of the program to provide representation from rural Wyoming.
“Many of our rural communities know what’s in their own communities, but most rural areas don’t have all the services people need and they may be at a loss as to how to find out what’s in the next community or a larger community,” says Magagna of the rural benefits.
The program has five full-time employees, one of whom works only on database management, going out to get information from resources and verifying that it’s accurate.
Magagna says program implementation has been discussed for at least six years, and recently a handful of community service groups in Laramie County took the initiative to get the program up and going, and they also provided upstart funding.
“Funding is a big issue,” says Magagna. “We’ve had good support from United Way in Laramie County, and recently from United Way in Natrona County. We also have support at the state level from Homeland Security, where people would need assistance in case of a natural disaster.”
The 2-1-1 program also has support from the Department of Family Services and the Department of Health, and Magagna says they’ve approached the Governor’s Office for long-term base funding for operations while the program continues to pursue grants for marketing and expansion.
Currently the 2-1-1 staff operates from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., though Magagna says the goal is to eventually operate 24/7.
“We’re looking into an arrangement with the northern Colorado group to handle the off-hours service,” he adds.
Service is available statewide by dialing 2-1-1 or 888-425-7138 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday and online anytime at wyoming211.org.