2-1-1 — a San Diego resource

Posted: March 17th, 2017 | Columns, Featured, Interviews, Senior Matters | 2 Comments

By William E. Kelly | Senior Matters

There is an invaluable nonprofit resource and information hub here in San Diego, that employs 72 call-takers who connect people to community, health and disaster services through a free, 24/7 stigma-free confidential phone service and a searchable online database.

That resource is 2-1-1 San Diego. 2-1-1 is well known to service providing organizations but not to the same degree by all San Diegans.

I recently had the privilege of touring their facility in Kearny Mesa and interviewing Alana G. Kalinowski, associate director of partner engagement, to discuss some of 2-1-1’s services in more depth.

(William Kelly | WK) What is 2-1-1, who does it serve, and how?
(Alana Kalinowski | AK) 2-1-1 serves as a link between those needing help and more than 6,000 health and social services throughout San Diego and Imperial Counties. Through a searchable database that can be accessed at, or by dialing 2-1-1 and talking to a live, highly trained “community connector” who will assess their needs, an individual can be connected to the most appropriate resource within their community that is able to meet their need. Assistance is confidential and offered in more than 200 languages. The 2-1-1 motto is “Real People. Real Connections. Real Help.”

(WK) What would you tell individuals in the LGBTQ community seeking community resources?
(AK) At 2-1-1 San Diego, we are passionately dedicated to breaking down barriers to accessing health and community services throughout San Diego County. Recognizing that the LGBTQ community often faces additional barriers to access, 2-1-1 San Diego has created a “LGBTQ Community Resource” focus page as a tool to foster connections needed between service providers and individuals in need. The LGBTQ resource page is accessible online at:

Additionally, 2-1-1 employs a number of people from the LGBTQ community and is dedicated to creating a safe and culturally sensitive environment for both our staff and those who call 2-1-1, through ongoing training.

(WK) I understand you get about 1,200 calls a day and about 20 percent of those calls are from — or on behalf of — older adults. Are there any programs specifically for older adults?
(AK) Yes, within our health navigation department — and in partnership with Jewish Family Services and Elderhelp of San Diego — 2-1-1 is working with the county of San Diego’s Aging and Independent Services to provide the services of Project C.A.R.E. (Community Action Reaching the Elderly), a safety net program for older adults and adults with disabilities.

Project C.A.R.E operates by maintaining effective contact and empowering individuals to remain as independent for as long as possible in a safe environment by providing:

  • A home visit to assess needs, strengths, determine goals and create a care plan. This includes a recommendation to complete a “Vial of Life” form that helps identify medications and special needs in the event of an emergency.
  • Follow-up on care plan goals is completed. Cross referrals are made to additional resources such as Adult Protective Services, Case Management, and In-Home Supportive Services.
  • Referrals to appropriate community resources, such as minor home repair and the Sheriff’s Take Me Home program.
  • And a reassurance contact via automated phone system or staff.

2-1-1’s specialty programs, such as Health Navigation, are staffed by individuals who have specialized experience and higher education in case management, health, and social services; allowing for a deeper level of resource navigation, facilitated connection to services, and ongoing support in overcoming barriers to access.

(WK) 2-1-1 also has the program, Courage to Call. What is that?

A view of 2-1-1 San Diego’s call center. (Courtesy 2-1-1)

(AK) Courage to Call is a confidential, veteran-staffed, 24/7 helpline dedicated to assisting active duty military personnel, veterans, and their family members through information, guidance, and referrals.

All Courage to Call staff have been in the military and understand the rigors of the military and military family life, constant deployments, transitioning out of the military and navigating veterans services. Courage to Call “peer navigators” provide over-the-phone peer support in navigating the service system through the provision of accurate information, assistance and referral, proactive check-in, follow-up assistance, program enrollment and advocacy, with the ultimate goal of providing enrollment assistance in the services they need.

(WK) Are there any new and exciting things happening at 2-1-1?
(AK) It’s an exciting time for us because we are creating a proactive, preventative new technology ecosystem meant to bridge service delivery gaps for clients, which is called 360° Community Coordination.

William E. Kelly

With more than 10 years serving 1.5 million clients, we have identified ways in which we can improve our service delivery. Many clients have the potential to fall through the cracks and may not access the resources they were directed to. This is a common challenge for many of us working in the social services sector. Through a multi-dimensional needs assessment that provides case planning, and facilitated connection to services, through ongoing resource navigation, 2-1-1 aims to increase client access needed resources.

For more information, visit

—Bill Kelly is a longtime local activist who currently focuses on LGBT senior issues and moderates the Caring for our LGBT Seniors in San Diego Facebook page. Access to the group is free to all seniors, their advocates, families, friends and caregivers. Reach Bill at


  1. John Keasler says:

    Great write up, Bill. Good to learn about the resources for seniors and veterans.

  2. Benny says:

    Thank you for sharing this, Bill! 2-1-1 is an outstanding resource, and we’re lucky to have such a robust 2-1-1 service in San Diego County. If any more people knew about all of the services available to them at their fingertips!

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