CLEVELAND — In just eight days, the United Way of Greater Cleveland's 2-1-1 coronavirus help line has helped thousands cut through the chaos when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine.
In order to help Cuyahoga County's seniors with the process of registering to receive their vaccine, the county partnered with the United Way to expand its 2-1-1 HelpLink. The HelpLink started on Jan. 25 and allows Cuyahoga County seniors to call in for information and resources they need to identify nearby COVID-19 vaccine providers by calling 2-1-1.
Director of the Greater Cleveland 2-1-1 HelpLink Franco Formichelli says in eight business days, more than 9,000 Northeast Ohio residents have called asking for assistance regarding the coronavirus vaccine. Through additional funding provided by Cuyahoga County and United Way, HelpLink also added 15 temporary staff members to work closely with callers over the next nine weeks to locate available vaccine providers near their zip code, as well as determine additional documentation or requirements necessary to register to receive the vaccination.
"On day one it was over an hour before we could get to somebody," Formichelli told 3News. "Over the last five six days, it's been under a minute or so."
He says the top three questions include:
- Can you help me register for the vaccine?
- I have already registered but I haven’t heard back, now what?
- Who is eligible for the vaccine?
Formichelli says the call center is busiest on Monday mornings because that is when vaccine appointments open. By the afternoon, fewer people call because there are fewer appointments open as the vaccines go so quickly. Formichelli added the current demand far outweighs the supply, so patience is important.
"But we still have some out there and I know Drug Mart is a really good one and they seem to be taking all registrations, which I'm sure they are prioritizing by age," he said.
In some cases, the navigators have been able to get those in group 1A and 1B registered and vaccinated on the same day they call. While coronavirus vaccines are top of mind for so many, the helpline is also busy answering other needs because of the pandemic. The top 5 needs include:
- Housing/meal assistance
- Utility assistance
- Food/meal assistance
- Individual Family and Community Support
- Income Support/Assistance
2-1-1 HelpLink is a free and confidential service available to handle calls from those who need assistance with hundreds of resources, including food and meal assistance, shelter or rental assistance, utility assistance and more. Through 2-1-1’s dedicated line, COVID-19 vaccination information is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.–4 p.m.
They are also offering a "Call Back" option, in which callers can select if they wish not to wait on hold but maintain their position in line. A navigator will call callers back when it is their turn.