Broward’s 211 reports rise in mental health issues during coronavirus pandemic

Broward County’s 211 service dispatchers are dealing with a rising number of callers who are struggling with their mental health and with unemployment during the coronavirus pandemic.

The 24-hour service, which is meant to connect residents with public services, has been around since 1995. The dispatchers have been working from home during the pandemic.

Sheila J. Smith, the chief executive officer of 211 Broward, reported that during the last six weeks the calls have more than doubled.

“Right now, overwhelmingly, it is basic needs,” Smith said. “It’s primarily food and financial assistance.”

Smith said callers are also struggling with fear, loneliness and depression. Dispatchers have a list of resources that extends to about 4,000 different public services, Smith said. They also make check-up calls on senior residents who average 83 years old.

Sheri Brown, the vice president of the Community Foundation of Broward, said the organization decided to give an $86,000 grant to help 211 Broward hire two more dispatchers.

“We felt that we had to step in to do something to help,” Brown said.

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