Expert, Trained Volunteers to Provide COVID-19 Health and Human Service Support via Virtual 311 Call Center
From Quarantine Guidance to Unemployment Access to Pothole Repairs: For 311 in Somerville, It’s Still “One Call to City Hall”
SOMERVILLE, MA – Today the City of Somerville’s 311 Constituent Services Division launched a new initiative to provide constituents with access to one-on-one expert guidance during the COVID-19 public health crisis.
The COVID-19 Community Support Team, an extension of 311 Constituent Services, is made up of more than 20 volunteers with specialized knowledge and expertise in healthcare and/or social support services available to people and businesses affected by the pandemic.
Members of the Community Support Team will not offer direct medical advice, but Support Team members with professional experience in the healthcare field or the Medical Reserve Corps are well-equipped to answer coronavirus-related questions and connect callers to appropriate health, mental health, and personal safety resources.
Similarly, additional Support Team members will specialize in helping community members navigate and access the increasingly diverse sources of financial assistance, food access, and other supports needed to address COVID-19 impacts. Callers will receive initial guidance and referral to more in-depth assistance. Support will also be provided where appropriate to assist those without Internet access in submitting initial web-based requests for assistance, such as unemployment.
As always, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, and Spanish-speaking operators are also available during regular business hours, and if someone calls 311 who speaks a language that 311 staff cannot speak, a third-party translation service will join the call.
“I’m proud to offer this new team of experts to our community. In this unprecedented pandemic, so many are facing new, difficult challenges. Having someone to call to help sort this all out can make all the difference,” said Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone. “Above all, I want to stress that you’re not alone in this. This is a scary time, but the city and your community are here to help – whether it’s a question about symptoms, how to quarantine with roommates, or where to find emergency housing, know that 311 is here and can help you get the information and guidance you need.”
311 Constituent Services has always served as the administration’s front line, connecting constituents with information and resources. The Community Support Team will expand that capacity in order to better meet the particular needs of the community right now, not only with additional personnel but with the specialized knowledge that constituents need to navigate increasingly urgent, increasingly complex challenges.
The Community Support Team itself is the product of collaboration, innovation, and quick mobilization across several City departments and community groups including the Communications Department, Health and Human Services, Information Technology, Economic Development, and the regional Medical Reserve Corps. Efforts to pull together this initiative began in earnest in late March; in less than two weeks, dozens of volunteers were identified, trained, and set up with new web-based tools and management systems to get this initiative up and running.
“We’ve been receiving so many types of new calls to 311 during this crisis. Among them are calls from the community asking how they can help, and this effort draws on that spirit. Pulling together this team of volunteers has been a real bright point amid the challenges we’re all facing,” said Steve Craig, Director of 311 Constituent Services. “The 311 team is always proud to serve this community, and now we are even prouder to serve with our community. We are here and ready to help.”
As of April 9, members of the Community Support Team will be available Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. by calling 3-1-1 (TTY 866-808-4851) or 617-666-3311 from outside the City. Information on additional resources is available at somervillema.gov/coronavirus.