Ocean City Today

Maryland 2-1-1 revamped to deliver real-time assistance

Previous iteration provided referrals only, now service can directly connect to aid
By Brian Gilliland | Jun 22, 2017
Photo by: Travis Brown Jennifer LaMade

(June 23, 2017) While Maryland phone number 2-1-1 has been available as a referral service for a long time, a new partnership with the health department and other related agencies has allowed it to become closer to a “treatment on demand” help line for people struggling with addiction as well as other behavioral and mental health issues.

Anyone seeking those sorts of services can dial 2-1-1, and be put on the path to recovery.

“If I’d called before, they’d give me the number for treatment facilities. Now, I’m directly connected to treatment staff and professionals,” Jennifer LaMade, planning director at the Health Department, said.

One of the most frustrating things a person could experience, LaMade said, is calling for help and being put into a labyrinthine phone maze of extensions, voice mails and referrals to other people, places or numbers.

So they cut out all that. The improved service quietly launched on June 1, and the Health Department is ready to begin promoting it, LaMade said.

“We’re trying to open access to treatment for those who need it. There’s a small window of opportunity, especially those with addictions, where — if we don’t get it right away, the power of the substance will keep them addicted,” she said.

The focus is on addictions, LaMade said, but not exclusively so, and not just centered on opioids.

“We’re focused on addictions but we’re not going to not respond to calls, we’re going to make sure you get the help you need. We just redesigned the system to better fill that need,” she said.

“We provide family support, mental health, behavioral health, addictions, family support, peer support, inpatient requests on down to Nalaxone and Narcan resupply orders,” she said.

And not just opioids.

“We have a high prevalence of alcohol addiction in Worcester County, and alcohol often contributes to substance abuse or opioid-related death,” LaMade said.

Alcohol is not always present when a fatality occurs, but it happens often enough to warrant concern, she said.

“We’re responding to the community’s needs,” LaMade said.

Worcester residents made nearly 2,000 calls to the service last year. Statewide, about 278,000 calls were answered in 2016, with Baltimore City and Prince George’s County accounting for almost half that volume.

Of those statewide calls, about 63,000 were for utility assistance, 45,000 were for mental health and substance abuse, 38,000 were people looking for emergency shelter and 24,000 were classified as housing assistance.

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