Placer County Exploring 211; RFP Outlook Undetermined

'Rather than having to spend time searching out and remembering phone numbers, residents will be able to simply dial 2-1-1 and have all sorts of resources at their fingertips,' said Jeff Brown, Placer County's director of Health and Human Services.

This story is limited to Techwire Insider members.
This story is limited to Techwire Insider members. Login below to read this story or learn about membership.
Placer County is the largest county in the state that doesn’t yet have 211 capability for those seeking government services, but its Board of Supervisors took the first step last week and authorized staff to explore costs, logistics and other considerations.

“2-1-1 provides free online and telephone support to community members to connect them with resources ranging from disaster aid to health and human services,” says an explainer on the county website. “Nationwide, 2-1-1 is found in all 50 states and in 38 California counties. Placer had previously been the largest county in the state without 2-1-1 service.”

Placer, in the foothills northeast of Sacramento, stretches from Truckee to Roseville, so accessing government information and services isn’t geographically feasible for many of its 386,000 residents. 

Jeff Brown, Placer County's Health and Human Services director, said on the Placer website: “Rather than having to spend time searching out and remembering phone numbers, residents will be able to simply dial 2-1-1 and have all sorts of resources at their fingertips. It will be quick and much less hassle, where folks won’t be forced to navigate through a maze of programs.” 

Before county officials took their proposal to the board, "we did some research by interviewing 2-1-1 vendors across the state,” said Katie Combs Prichard, a public information specialist with Placer County Health and Human Services. San Diego’s 2-1-1 site was among those that Placer officials looked at as a possible template; Nevada County's was another.

“Currently we are leaning towards using Connecting Point, a vendor who provides 2-1-1 for neighboring Nevada County as well as our existing Placer County homeless/housing hotline,” Combs Prichard told Techwire. “Because they are a public entity, we would potentially have the ability to contract with them directly without going through an RFP process if that is the route we do indeed choose to take.”

The county announcement notes: "The systems allow for the quick dissemination of information regarding evacuations, shelters, road closures and aid without the need to create and staff a separate call center, all while reducing call volume to 9-1-1." 

Combs Prichard noted that the initiative is still in the early stages “and things are a bit fluid,” so no decisions have been made about a vendor.

“The timeline for launch is probably around a year out, since the application process for 2-1-1 with the California Public Utilities Commission typically takes about that long,” Combs Prichard added. If the county does go ahead with Connecting Point 2-1-1, it would probably staff it with live people, at least in the beginning, and automate it later. 

"Financial partners in the current effort include First 5 Placer and the Placer County Office of Education," says the county announcement. "The system will cost up to $250,000 annually after initial startup costs." 

Dennis Noone is Managing Editor of Techwire. He is a career journalist, having worked as a reporter and editor at small-town newspapers and major metropolitan dailies in California, Nevada, Texas and Virginia, including as an editor with USA Today in Washington, D.C. He lives in the Northern California foothills.