Joint Policy Committee Hears from 2-1-1 Providers on Current Services, Needs for the Future
4/13/2016
HARRISBURG – The House Majority Policy Committee today held a joint, informational hearing with the House Minority Policy Committee regarding the use of PA 2-1-1, a public service operated by the United Way to connect Pennsylvania residents to health and human service information and assistance in their communities.

“2-1-1 is a free service that residents may not be aware is available to them,” Benninghoff said. “People in need of assistance feeding their families, finding a job, paying their rent or getting transportation to a medical appointment can call 2-1-1 24 hours a day, seven days a week and get help navigating the resources they might be eligible for.”

PA 2-1-1 connects people in need to health and human service assistance available through government programs, as well as assistance provided locally through faith-based organizations and private non-profit organizations. The service also provides a number for residents to call in times of disaster, allowing 9-1-1 to be used primarily for the need of first responders. In 2015, there were 214,000 unique calls to the service in Pennsylvania.

According to testifiers, currently, there are six regional 2-1-1 programs operating throughout Pennsylvania, which through public-private partnerships provide services to approximately 85 percent of the state’s population. Each center operates using the same database of community resources and caller activity, allowing for easy data sharing and needs assessment. Currently, only the northwest region of the state is without access to 2-1-1.

At today’s hearing, service providers advocated for $1.5 million in state funding in Fiscal Year 2016-17 in order to make 2-1-1 available to all Pennsylvania citizens, expand the database, implement new technology, such as text-to-chat, and improve upon the consistency of services throughout the state.

Testifiers explained this request for state investment would not necessarily be a permanent, reoccurring line item in the budget. PA 2-1-1 providers would, after successfully expanding the network statewide, implement a plan for long-term sustainability, which would include contracting with the Commonwealth to replace the services now provided through state-operated 1-800 numbers. Testifiers argued doing so would streamline and improve service to Pennsylvanians, while also achieving cost-savings in state government.

“If we can help someone get the assistance they need quickly and solve their problem effectively, we may help them avoid more costly care, which would ultimately benefit taxpayers,” Benninghoff said. “We must explore all avenues for improving access to programs and reducing inefficiency in government. It should not be hard to find help when you need it”

Testifiers included Kristen Rotz, president of United Way of Pennsylvania; Nancy Kukovich, PA 2-1-1 board chair and CEO of Adelphoi Human Services; Kelly Gollick, executive director of Contact Helpline, PA 2-1-1 Southcentral provider; and Lisa Austin, national director of 2-1-1 Strategic Enhancements and Disaster Recovery, United Way Worldwide.

To watch the hearing and review the testimony received, visit PaGOPPolicy.com.

Representative Kerry Benninghoff
House Majority Policy Committee Chairman
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Morgan Wagner
717.260.6281
mwagner@pahousegop.com
KerryBenninghoff.com / Facebook.com/RepBenninghoff
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