United Way’s 211 Crisis Line officially taking coronovirus calls

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The United Way of Southwest Louisiana is bracing for the Coronavirus impact. The worldwide agency is in touch with state and national leaders about the global pandemic.

SWLA United Way is warning the community that scam artists are trying to take advantage of nonprofits and consumers during the heightened attention to the coronavirus.

“We’ve got 80 years of experience handling community crisis large and small,” said president and CEO Denise Durel. “One thing that we always see is fraudulent individuals and entities trying to take advantage of vulnerable people during times of heightened worry or fear.”

Information about COVID-19, which has now been classified by the World Health Organization as a “global pandemic,” is now partnering with the Louisiana Department of Health and the Center for Disease Control to provide up to date information to the public through its crisis relay service “211.”

“Citizens can dial 211 or text 898- 211 (keyword: LACOVID) to ask questions and access official information regarding the virus, including statistics and community resources for healthcare assistance,” said Durel. “United Way’s accredited call specialists will have the most updated information.”

Louisiana 211 is now equipped and trained to answer questions from the public.

“The Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) is asking residents to call 211 instead of the current general information line,” Durel said. “Multilingual and hearing impaired services are also provided on 211.”

Over the past week, the call volume to LDH’s general information line, that was only available during business hours, has increased from several calls a day to several hundred calls, according to a press release.

Assistant secretary for LDH’s Office of Public Health Dr. Alex Billioux said adding this change will give citizens the best way to get information any time of the day or night.

“The Louisiana 211 statewide network is established as the public’s first and best source to connect callers with critical information about health and human services,” Billioux said. “This expertise ensures that citizens can talk to a person who is trained to answer their questions 24 hours a day.”

Operators can answer questions about testing for the coronavirus, symptoms and treatment and when to access medical help. Answers to all questions were provided by LDH’s medical leadership team.