The Riverton City Council heard a presentation this month about Wyoming 211, a nonprofit organization that connects people to health and human services in local communities throughout the state.
The network maintains a database of more than 2,800 organization in Wyoming that provide food, utility and rent assistance, job training, transportation, mental health services, and more, development and marketing director Olivia Schon told the council during a work session last week.
“If it’s a government service, a nonprofit, or a faith-based service in the State of Wyoming, we like to pride ourselves on the fact that we have most of them in our database,” Schon said.
People who call 211 during normal office hours – 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays – get connected with a community resource specialist who is able to direct them to services in the local area, she explained.
On the weekends, Schon said clients can connect with a 211 operator by texting their zip code to 898-211, or they can call 211 and leave a voicemail message that will be returned the next business day.
Users can also access the 211 database online, Schon said.
Riverton Volunteer Fire Department chief Jake Blumenshine asked whether he could direct families to 211 when they are displaced by house fires, for instance, and Schon said, “Yes, we would love to step in and help out with that.”
In fact, she said, 211 is “desperately trying” to develop a partnership with first responders who “are obviously seeing people all the time who are in need.”
For example, she said, a 911 dispatcher might take a call from a resident who is looking for a way to get to a doctor’s appointment on the other side of the county.
That kind of call doesn’t necessarily qualify as “an emergency” from a law enforcement or medical response perspective, Schon said, but for the caller, the need is urgent, and 211 can help.
Increased use of 211 might even “alleviate the burden on 911 call centers” in Fremont County, Mayor Tim Hancock pointed out.
“The more that we can have people using this, I think, the better,” he said. “(Dispatchers) get calls from everybody about everything. Being able to refer them to 211 … is great.”
He suggested the city should share information about 211 on its website and social media pages, and Councilmember Lindsey Cox said she would talk to local school officials about the service, while Councilmember Karla Borders said she would “be promoting it” 211 at her “day job” with the Department of Family Services and Councilmember Kyle Larson said he would share the information with people who need rental assistance.
Hancock also said he would reach out to local organizations that aren’t represented in the 211 database and encourage them to sign up.
“There’s a lot of people that would want to be able to use this,” he said. “We’ll do what we can to get (the) word out.”
In 2022, more than 230 people contacted 211 from Fremont County, Schon said, and they were directed to more than 500 resources in the community.
More than 330 people contacted 211 from Fremont County between October 2022 and October 2023, she said; 36 percent of those clients were asking for information about housing and shelter, while about 27 percent were seeking utility assistance and almost 19 percent needed healthcare services.
More than half of the callers seeking housing and shelter were asking about rental assistance, Schon added, and almost 60 percent of those calling about healthcare wanted information about health insurance.
Statewide, Schon said the most common calls to 211 are about access to utility and rent assistance, food pantries, and mental health services.
The network also has a Kinship Care program that offers assistance to guardians who are responsible for caring for “a relative child that’s not their own,” she said, and 211 recently hired a navigator who specifically focuses on aging and disability resources.
For more information call 211.