18 Oct Wisconsin crisis hotline gets Web-based integration
Wisconsin’s 211 crisis and community service hotline will soon have a common data repository and may one day interact with those in other states. Community TechKnowledge, of Austin, Texas, has sold the state software that will let it create a database of the system’s callers and programs and link services together.
The 211 phone line is a federally mandated number for each state, allowing callers to reach crisis and community service centers for help with substance abuse and mental health. In Wisconsin, 211 functions as a statewide call center, putting together regional call centers to provide increased services.
The CTK’s FirstCallNet software provides a resource directory for the 211 calling center, allowing caller and organization records to be sorted by any geographic area in the state. The records can be sorted by service, taxonomy, zip code, or urban area and are designed for easy access, with organizations selected based on resource availability, and call center staff activities. An aplication collects data on each of the callers, and can help choose an organization based on individual needs.
All the aspects of the service are completely Web-based, eliminating the need for duplicating data entry and allowing for real-time changes to be made. Any agency that is linked up to the system can update their records by submitting the data to an administrator, who formats and posts it to the network.
“It’s a centralized means for all the hubs to update … without doing the work themselves,” said Jeff Hall, vice president of sales for CTK. “There’s a reporting tool right on top of it that allows them to slice and dice as they see fit.”
One of the reasons for implementing the system in Wisconsin was the success it has enjoyed in Minnesota, which was one of the country’s first statewide 211 programs. The FirstCallNet software has been running for over a year, and has handled half a million caller inquiries.
“Because we power Minnesota, it’s a real natural progression,” Hall said. “It works well to share one call center because of geographic location.”
Larry Olness, statewide manager for United Way of Dane County’s 211 program, says the installation of the new system offers a great deal of potential for networking in the state. While in Wisconsin the calling center is statewide, it is a loose network with each county controls its system independently. For example, the United Way of Dane County manages Madison’s 211 services, while the Waukesha Mental Health Association provides services to Waukesha County.
Olness said that since all the 211 centers in Wisconsin are independently controlled, the use of FirstCallNet provides a tool that can connect them on an informational level. Additionally, since the system has been used successfully in other states, there is also the possibility of interstate networking to increase the efficiency of state services.
Olness also said that the implementation of the system is on schedule, and early signs point that it will be a successful one.
“I believe the technology utilized by CTK will open up opportunities for collaborations with other information and referral database users throughout the state,” Olness said.
Les Chappell is a staff writer for WTN and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.