Thanks to the generosity of the Unicorn Children’s Foundation and the United Way of Palm Beach County, 211’s new “Special Needs Helpline” officially launched September 1st. The staff at 211 hope to make a positive impact upon the lives of families with children and young adults (birth to 22) with special needs. Though detailed data on the number of families with children having special needs is hard to identify, the School District of Palm Beach County estimates that it serves approximately 28,000 children with disabilities in its Exceptional Student Education (ESE) program throughout its schools which translates into numerous families in need of services.
“We could not ignore the tremendous need to expand our service in support of this population’s unique challenges and needs. Our Special Needs Helpline is a “one stop” approach, helping to connect overwhelmed families to services. Just as important-we are also here to listen to their struggles- to offer a comforting voice that can perhaps brighten their day!” says 211 Helpline’s Executive Director Susan Buza.
This new program is based on the model of 211 Broward. Buza praises the great work they have done with their Special Needs Hotline. She is grateful for the input and assistance of 211 Broward’s staff and thanks their Executive Director Sheila Smith.
“Based upon what we have observed with 211 Broward, we knew that we could implement the same quality program here. Thanks to the generous support of our funders who stepped up to the plate we were able to make this happen.”
Patrice Schroeder Public Information Officer for 211 recalls the story of a family in which the mother had recently died and the father was disabled and caring for 3 children, two of which had special needs.
“He was so grateful for the help as his family was facing numerous challenges and overwhelmed-not knowing where to turn. We were a great starting point for him and were able to help him navigate towards programs and services that could really help.”
Though 211 Helpline currently assists with a multitude of needs, 211’s new Special Needs Database under the guidance of 211’s Special Needs Manager Randee Gabriel will be a ramped-up effort with staff scouring Palm Beach County for a wide variety of programs and services geared specifically for this population. Randee brings a wealth of experience and knowledge also having collaborated with the School District of PBC and various community agencies focused on special needs. Ann Levene-Eisenberg, Executive Director Palm Beach School for Autism and parent of an adult with autismcomments:
“211 will help alleviate the stress parents feel when they are desperately trying to locate resources and services. No family should have to go through hours of phone calls when they can make one phone call to 211 and get all the information they need!”
To learn more simply dial 2-1-1. You can also visit http://www.211palmbeach.org/special-needs .
Nonprofit 211 Helpline’s mission is to connect people to services 24 hours a day by understanding their individual emotional, financial and community needs and to support the health & human service system as a whole.