August 1, 2019 - Sitting right on the gulf coast of Alabama, the city of Mobile is prone to a variety of natural disasters like hurricanes and tornadoes. Devastating environmental hazards are a risk here too – consider the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that famously plagued the region in 2010. Nestled inside this hurricane-prone Gulf city is Lifelines Counseling Services (LCS), a non-profit counseling center that supports this community and manages the region’s 2-1-1 line in partnership with the United Way of Southwest Alabama. In Mobile, LCS helps individuals and families live more productive lives through counseling, assistance, referrals, and education. As a believer in the power of proper mental health services, I appreciate the innate value of LCS in addition to the work they do through running the 2-1-1 line.
If you aren’t familiar with the 2-1-1 line, chances are, for most of your life, you have had immediate access to your internet search engine of choice, or you may not have desperately needed their referral services. For those that have spent most of their lives a bit differently, including those that regularly experience the joy of getting support they need through direct communication with other human beings (often face to face!), services like 2-1-1 are critical. It was created in 2000 to connect individuals and families in need to organizations in their community that provide the appropriate social services for their situation. It can be especially useful for those dealing with personal crises or trying to survive during times of disaster.
We were thrilled to team up with LCS to develop capacity-building trainings that looked at, among other topics, how the 2-1-1 line can be more integrated into local response efforts to share resources with those who need it most. We regularly work with 2-1-1 lines across the country to keep information about our services, including Rx Open and our hotline, accessible to those that need it the most.
Mobile, a predominantly African-American community of working class families in semi-rural Alabama, is the perfect setting for a close look at how resources are shared through services like 2-1-1. With this landscape in mind, we designed an emergency management training and exercise program for LCS and their regional partners within the Mobile County chapter of the VOAD, or Voluntary Organizations Active During Disasters. The VOAD, with chapters around the US, is made up of organizations with a special role in disaster response, often strongly connected with 2-1-1 lines. Together, these organizations support their communities with valuable human services, donations, and volunteers. During times of disaster, they are often a life-saving resource for people struggling to get the support they need to recover.
We’ve seen firsthand the irreplaceable impact non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can have in disaster response and relief efforts. While resources may be limited, in our experience, willpower and passion for helping others is not. The opportunity we had to partner with a fellow NGO and 2-1-1 line to make their community more resilient did not go unappreciated by our team, myself included. Community resilience is a pillar of Healthcare Ready’s mission that drives us to support community organizations during disasters and strengthen community-based initiatives to prepare communities before they hit. I always look forward to the work we do that most aligns with this pillar, as I believe no community should be disproportionally affected by disasters.