For most people across the United States, help with basic services and information starts by dialing 2-1-1.
While approximately 270 million people (90 percent of the population) have access to a shortcut through a maze of health and human service agency phone numbers, Colusa County residents do not. Nor is there a three digit dialing code outside 9-1-1 that might provide information regarding services available to the general public during the course of, and in recovery from, disaster events.
That could soon change as Colusa County officials look to plug into the information system.
“The 2-1-1 program is a statewide program that – when we looked at it previously – was incredibly expensive,” said Wendy Tyler, County Executive Officer.
With increasing threat to floods and wildfires, the California Public Utility Commission has made funding available to allow a group of previously non-served rural counties to participate in the program, and have selected Ventura County to be the 2-1-1 provider.
If Colusa County agrees to participate, the Board of Supervisors would have to contract with Ventura County for five years, with funding provided by the state to pay for the first three years.
“Years four and five would be the responsibility of the county to fund at a cost of about $5,000 a year,” Tyler said.
Tyler said she and Health and Human Services Director Elizabeth Kelly are confident the county could come up with the money for the service.
The Board of Supervisors last week affirmed by resolution their interest and support for CPUC and Ventura County’s joint effort to provide the toll-free, easy to remember, dialing code that could provide fast access to disaster-related information.
Officials said having a 2-1-1 system would minimize the direct impact upon the Sheriff’s Office, Colusa County Office of Emergency Services, or other emergency-related agencies if a disaster should strike.
More than that, the 2-1-1 system will also have all the pertinent phone numbers for local county services, suicide prevention help, location of hospital, fire departments, evacuation center to give to residents, especially to those with limited or no access to the internet, and visitors passing through the area.
“They can just call 2-1-1 and get that information,” Tyler said.
The 2-1-1 call system would be manned by a live individual 24-hours, seven days a week.
While that individual would be located in Ventura County, they would have all pertinent information at their fingertips.
“We will provide all the information to them, and they are live on the other end. ■