An informational phone service for Chaves County communities will be managed by a different group soon.
The 2-1-1 free assistance line now run by the United Way of Chaves County is being transferred to the Chaves County Health Council.
“It aligns with our mission and our vision for our health council,” said Jennifer Smith, Health Council coordinator, “first to provide a resource for the community and then to bridge community members and access to services.”
Smith and Valerie Lopez, Health Council board president, said the transfer should occur any time now, as they have obtained a dedicated cellphone for the calls.
The local United Way board voted to approve the switch May 21, said Executive Director Sherry Mumford, and she is now working with the United Way of Central New Mexico, which runs the statewide 2-1-1 system, to have the calls go to the Health Council phone.
“As soon as it gets transferred, we can begin to answer calls immediately,” said Lopez.
Mumford said the United Way was primarily interested in having the phone line answered “24/7.” But Smith said the service won’t be answered overnight, although it will be manned during daytime and evening hours. People can leave voicemails at night, she said.
Both Lopez and Smith said the council intends for the 2-1-1 service to provide more information than it does now.
“We have some hopes and dreams for the 2-1-1 information system. I think that is why the United Way agreed to let us take over,” said Lopez, who added that it will serve Roswell, Midway, Dexter, Hagerman and Lake Arthur.
“It is designed to help with basic human needs, things like rent and things like that,” said Smith. “We can point people in the direction of disaster response and recovery, mental health services, employment support. We can help with older adults and with disabled people to know what services are available, and with children, youth and family support, too. We want it to have information for anything in the community — not just health and wellness, but for community events. Like whenever the (Roswell) Little Theater has a production, people might be able to call and get information.”
Smith and Lopez said the expansion of the service might take time, as they work to develop online and printed knowledge bases of information and get accustomed to taking the calls. If responders can’t provide information immediately, they will research the question and return the call.
The group, which receives most of its funding from the New Mexico Department of Health, is applying for a grant to help fund the program and will be eligible to apply for United Way funding in 2020, Smith said.
She added that, once the phone number switch occurs, the group will begin advertising and promoting the information line.
Mumford said that United Way organizations run many of the 2-1-1 services offered in the nation. The local group has been manning the line for seven years, she said, taking it over from Family Resources and Referrals. The majority of callers have sought assistance paying utility bills, she said.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.