Middlesex United Way: 2-1-1 can help alleviate transportation struggles

Like many of you, I have felt the frustration of sitting in traffic on Route 9 and interstates 84 and 95. Transportation is a huge issue in our state, especially for our most vulnerable citizens who don’t own a vehicle or are unable to drive.

The 2-1-1 hotline, a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week health and human services number funded by United Way, has been keeping track of all calls received and is paying specific attention to transportation-related concerns. In fact, the organization just recently came out with a “barometer report,” which helps gauge where we are in terms of transportation availability and satisfaction.

In the fiscal year 2018, United Way of Connecticut/2-1-1 received nearly 3,500 transportation-related service requests from individuals seeking access to and information on transportation resources across the state. Transportation barriers such as income, age, disability, access to a car, proximity to public transportation, and distance from destinations have the potential to prevent Connecticut residents from getting where they need to go.

2-1-1’s comprehensive database of health and human services includes information on bus, rail and ride opportunities and financial assistance for transportation needs. 2-1-1 contact specialists receive hundreds of calls each day from Connecticut residents seeking information, services and a connection to resources. This call data serves as a useful barometer of the present need for assistance in the state.

Data about requests for transportation services can be utilized to demonstrate the degree to which services are needed and, in instances when a request for services is unfulfilled, can reveal where there are unmet needs and help direct the deployment of resources to meet those needs.

Of the 3,462 service requests, 84 percent of callers were successfully referred to programs and services able to assist them with their transportation struggles. In Middlesex County, the most common requests were medical appointment transportation, disability-related transportation, and local bus services. Of the 1,875 total service requests for non-emergency medical transportation statewide, 94 percent were connected with a resource.

Simply dial 2-1-1 from anywhere in Connecticut and you will reach a highly trained contact specialist who will assess your needs and provide referrals to the resources in your community. Every day, contact specialists help callers find assistance for complex issues, such as financial problems, substance abuse, and suicide prevention. They are also available for nonemergency questions, such as finding volunteer opportunities and donation options.

2-1-1 maintains a database of 4,100 health and human services providers offering approximately 40,000 services. Multilingual assistance and TDD access are also available.

By supporting United Way, you are also helping support these incredible programs. Local human service agencies are making a major impact in assisting our neighbors, but there is clearly still more work to do. To learn more about 2-1-1, call or visit 211.org.

Kevin Wilhelm is CEO and president of the Middletown-based Middlesex United Way.