Colorado 2-1-1 expanding as 911 dispatchers battle “unnecessary” COVID calls

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DENVER (KDVR) — The Mile High United Way is expanding Colorado 2-1-1 to meet an unprecedented demand of calls regarding COVID-19.

According to Fermin Avila, the Director of the 2-1-1 Help Center, daily calls to 2-1-1 have tripled in the past two weeks.

“We’re getting over 1,000 calls a day,” says Avila. “Our center is now positioning itself to be able to respond to more of these inquiries.

That includes plans to hire an additional 40 call-takers, who are now working remotely from home.

“We’re trying to find answers for questions that are changing sometimes by the hour,” he says.

It comes as dispatchers across the state deal with a rush of COVID-related calls.

West Metro Fire Rescue District Chief Doug Hutchinson says a large portion of those 911 calls are people asking for information.

“They want to be tested, they want to know if they have COVID, they want to be transported to the hospital,” he says. “We will show up on a call and it’s more for information, where people want reassurance, or advice, or guidance.”

Hutchinson says it’s putting a major strain on resources.

“You’re tying up 911 resources when there are other things that could probably be better spent with our time,” he says. “If you’re just having mild symptoms and want information, there are plenty of other resources out there.”

Hutchinson says your primary care physician should be your first call for COVID-related questions.

He says 2-1-1 can also be a huge help for finding a doctor, or for questions on Colorado’s stay-at-home order.

“If we don’t have the answer, we’ll do some digging, and find the right answer for the next time,” Avila said.

The 2-1-1 call center is open Monday through Friday.

Plans are in the works to feature frequently asked COVID questions on their website, 211Colorado.org

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