County DSS to partner with 2-1-1

Jul. 27, 2013 @ 06:02 AM

When making a report of child or adult abuse or neglect, it has been customary to call 911 during any hour.

On Aug. 5, that will change as the Rutherford County Department of Social Services (DSS) will begin partnering with NC 2-1-1 to provide after-hours answering services.

John Carroll, Rutherford County DSS director, said 2-1-1 will accept calls for child and adult protective services after regular business hours as well as anytime DSS is closed, such as times of inclement weather, power outages or holidays. He said the calls to 2-1-1 will be referred to a DSS after-hours staff person.

The primary reason for the partnership, Carroll said, is to free up county 911 resources.

"Primarily, our reason is they can provide a service for us and it frees up 911 to deal with emergencies and not have to deal with other things," Carroll said.

In March, the county announced it was becoming a part of the United Way of Asheville/Bumcombe County Call Center for 2-1-1.

The service helps connect people with needed services including food, housing and utilities, education programs, financial education and counseling, access to child care, job training, support groups, mental health and substance abuse, senior services and disaster services.

"Although 911 is for emergencies like police, fire and ambulance and 2-1-1 is for community resources like child protective services, both systems are part of a partnership to ensure that people get the right help when they need it most, regardless of what number they dial," said Rachael Nygaard, director at NC 2-1-1's Asheville Center, in a press release.

The partnership with DSS is included in the cost already being paid to 2-1-1. That cost is shared among several agencies in the county such as United Way of Rutherford County, Isothermal Planning and Development and the Rutherford/Polk/McDowell Health Department. Carroll said DSS pays $8,476 of the $16,000. He said DSS will receive "at least half" of the costs through a reimbursement from the state.

"Having 2-1-1 do our calls, we will get more bang for our buck," Carroll said.

He said 2-1-1 will also generate reports indicating response times of DSS staff and will transfer calls to on-call staff's cell phones.

State law requires DSS be available to accept protective services reports 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Carroll said that service is currently provided through the 911 Communications Center.

"There will be a learning curve as we educate our consumers and community members that they will now call 2-1-1 when they need to make contact," Carroll said. "Both agencies will work closely with the 911 Communications Center to evaluate this system and maintain protocols to ensure calls are not missed and that they are routed to the appropriate place."

Carroll said that includes working with on-call staff with DSS.

"We have an on-call team of two workers that do nothing but on-call and the operators will be familiar with them and vice-versa," Carroll said.