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COVID-19 prompts record number of Louisiana 211 calls

From Staff Reports
Plaquemine Post South

BATON ROUGE -- Since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, Louisiana’s statewide 211 network has answered a record-breaking number of calls about COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus. Working in partnership with the Louisiana Department of Health, the Louisiana 211 statewide network is supported by United Ways throughout the state. All citizens of Louisiana should call 211 (or text the keyword LACOVID 898211) for answers to questions they have related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We were activated on March 12. By 7 p.m. March 29, our call centers had answered 27,391 phone calls,” said Sarah Berthelot, Louisiana Association of United Way President and CEO who serves as Louisiana 211 director of disaster response during statewide activations. “Our 211 call specialists are in a unique position to help people during these unprecedented times because we help people in vulnerable positions across the state every day.”

Gov. John Bel Edwards encourages citizens to call 211 with questions. A directive to call 211 with question tops the list of resources on the governor’swebsiteand heads his Facebook page. 

Berthelot said the 211 call specialists have done an outstanding job connecting callers seeking answers with resources and information available demonstrating astrong commitment to provide the public answers to questions they are asking in real time so families have the facts they need to navigate this pandemic. The ever-growing FAQs call specialists help create and rely on to answer questions is available to the public here.

Dr. Alex Billioux, assistant secretary for the Office of Public Health, said the Louisiana 211 statewide network has proven to be a vital source of information for people as they try to reduce their chance of getting sick from the new coronavirus.

“Rightly so, people are worried about what this new virus means to the health of themselves, their family and their community. This worry has translated into people seeking answers to very specific questions, and 211 has been a key way that individuals can get their questions answered,” Billioux said. “Our team works directly with the 211 team to provide the 211specialists with up-to-the-minute answers to questions that are oftentimes very specific.”

The Louisiana 211 statewide network connects callers with more than 9,600 resources to help with issues across the board 365 days a year. During this time, Berthelot explained that though caller identification is private, Louisiana 211 provides aggregate-themed data twice a day to the state Department of Health.

Berthelot said Louisiana 211 call specialists areanswering calls about a wide range of topics related to COVID-19 — from prevention tips, symptoms, transmission, workforce-related questions, social distancing and about Gov. Edwards’ stay-at-home order.

“The COVID-19 situation has prompted the Louisiana 211 statewide network to use our capacity for caring and apply our skills, partnerships and technology to the unique need this crisis presents,” Berthelot said. 

She explained that when callers ask new questions, Louisiana 211 works with LDH to find the most accurate answers — and then, as quickly as possible, the answers become a part of our FAQs and available to the public. 

“We have a strong commitment to listening to the public and finding and delivering answers by working lock and step with the LDH,” Berthelot said.

The LDH is asking anyone looking for information about the COVID-19 crisis to call 211 or text the keyword LACOVID to 898-211 for the most current information, as it becomes available. 

“Louisiana 211 is a humble but courageous operation. It is a network of nonprofit organizations working together to provide reliable services every day throughout the state,” Berthelot said. “Every day, we are adapting as a network to serve the people of the state as best we can.”

During peak call times, callers may have a longer wait time than is typical. We ask that callers have patience and continue to call back for answers. Most parishes have a callback service to prevent callers waiting on hold. 

In addition to being able to call the Louisiana 211 and to sign up for text messaging, residents can get written answers to the most-asked questions by concerned citizens. The website is www.la211help.org. The Louisiana 211 statewide network provides multilingual services as well as information for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.  

The Louisiana 211 Statewide Network is: 232-HELP/211, Capital Area United Way,United Way of Central Louisiana,United Way of Northeast Louisiana,United Way of Northwest Louisiana,United Way of Southwest Louisiana,VIA LINK/211and the Louisiana Association of United Ways.