First, the good news: Oregon and Southwest Washington have an amazing array of health and human services available to the public. The bad news: navigating the myriad of community service options can be confusing, time-consuming, and overwhelming, especially in the midst of a crisis.

Now, the best news: dialing 2-1-1 confidentially connects Oregonians to a free referral line operated by 211info. This nonprofit organization provides guidance and information to kids, families, and community members about a wide variety of health and social services, including mental health services. In recognition of May 7, National Mental Health Awareness Day, we spoke with Curtis Waterbury, Direct of Marketing and Communications at 211info:

Is 211 just for extreme cases, or can anyone call?

People tend to think they need to be in a dire situation before reaching out 211info, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, we obviously hear from people who are in serious situations regarding lack of food or housing, but people also call us for information about such services early childhood development, elementary school registration, immunizations, donation locations, and a whole lot more.

Do most people access 211 services via text, phone, or the website?

In 2014, we were contacted via phone 106,423 times. We responded to 5,125 texts and emails in that same timeframe.  Our website reported 295,397 visits for the year.

What are some mental health-specific services you are able to connect people with?

If a person calls in a crisis situation, we warm transfer them to a crisis hotline in their area, such as the Multnomah County Crisis line. Most counties have a crisis line. For youth, we will often transfer to the Oregon Youth Hotline. On top of crisis intervention, a youth can call, text, or email about depression, bullying, pregnancy, self harm, or substance abuse. For general mental health needs, we assess the insurance situation. If they have it, it likely covers some sort of screening and counseling. In addition to the following resources, we would have them contact their CCO to get a list of private providers.

We assess the needs and request of the client: do they want/need individual counseling, support groups, residential treatment, etc. The agencies we most often refer to are: 

  • Albertina Kerr, which has services for adults and children.
  • Morrison Child and Family services, which focuses on children, and is probably our most referred to in this realm.
  • Cascadia Behavioral Health, which offers an array of services.
  • LifeWorks NW, which has adult, adolescent, and children services.
  • Many counties also have mental health services, such as case management and individual and group counseling. 

We also refer clients to the ASQ screening if they have concerns. There is a specific tool called ASQ:SE (Ages and Stages Questionnaire: Social Emotional) that screens for possible mental health concerns in young children. Both parents and providers can use the online tool.

Is there anything else you'd like to share with Portland Monthly readers?

We would just like to let people know we’re here to help folks navigate the myriad of community services throughout Oregon and SW Washington. It can be overwhelming and there should be no shame in asking for help to figure it out. We’re FREE, live and confidential. Just dial 2-1-1, or text your zip code to 898211, or email help@211info.org, or search our database at 211info.org.

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