Middlesex United Way: 2-1-1 can help with rides to medical appointments, assistance

MIDDLETOWN — Transportation is a notoriously big issue in our state, and can be especially troublesome for our most vulnerable citizens who often do not 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, hosts a comprehensive database of health and human services, and also includes information on bus, rail and ride opportunities, as well as financial assistance for transportation needs.

There, contact specialists receive hundreds of calls each day from Connecticut residents seeking information, services, and help to connect to resources.

The transportation page on the 211ct.org website provides resources, including local bus and rail information, disability-related transportation, family prison visitation support, rides to and from medical appointments, senior ride programs and ride-sharing programs.

2-1-1 has been keeping track of all calls received and is paying specific attention to transportation-related concerns. The 2-1-1 barometer utilizes 2-1-1 data and other information to explore issues affecting Connecticut residents. The division tracks the type of information callers are looking for, and the referrals that are made, creating a database that serves as a gauge of the needs present in 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. In fiscal year 2018, United Way of Connecticut 2-1-1 received nearly 3,000 transportation-related service requests from individuals seeking access to and information on transportation resources across the state.

In all, 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 nonemergency medical transportation statewide, 94 percent were connected with a resource.

Data about requests for transportation services can be used 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, as well as help direct the deployment of resources to meet those needs.

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.

Also, 2-1-1 is 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 president and CEO of the Middlesex United Way in Middletown.