Brevard County Updates 211 Website with ‘Chatbot’ to Help Residents with COVID-19 Related Issues
By Space Coast Daily // August 4, 2021
text 211NOW to 898211 for information
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – A “chatbot” on 211 Brevard’s website and a new automated text messaging service give Brevard County residents two more ways to get help with concerns related to COVID-19.
Visitors to 211brevard.org may interact with the “bot,” which will guide them to resources about testing and vaccines, food pantries, financial assistance for rent and utilities, and mental health and substance abuse treatment.
The same types of questions are addressed by texting 211NOW to 898211.
“While we had already added live text to the options for reaching our 24/7 helpline staff, the marathon of high demand for information in the pandemic encouraged us to look for additional, efficient platforms for helping more people,” said Libby Donoghue, executive director for 211 Brevard.
The local nonprofit has provided telephone-based support for more than 50 years and operates the Community Information Hotline in partnership with Brevard County Emergency Management, most often in response to hurricanes.
In March 2020, the hotline was activated for the COVID-19 crisis and received almost 70,000 calls and 8,000 texts in a year, which represented a 50 percent increase for the period.
“On some days, our staff and volunteers were faced with 500 percent increases in calls and texts,” Donoghue said. “We rose to the challenge, but we also knew we could help more people more quickly with more methods of delivery that didn’t take staff time.”
Both 211 Brevard technology upgrades were funded through a federal CARES Act allocation proposed by District 2 County Commissioner Bryan Lober and approved by the Board of County Commissioners.
“As the Space Coast recovers from the ongoing impacts of COVID, Brevard County remains on the lookout for opportunities to help the community recover,” Lober said.
The county’s support for the one-time expenses for these projects will allow 211 post-COVID-19 to repurpose the technology to address other possible community challenges, such as hurricanes, wildfire,s or widespread flooding, Donoghue said.
“This is an investment that will pay off immediately and potentially for years to come in better access to information for residents,” she said.
For live interaction with 211 specialists, residents may call 2-1-1 or text their ZIP code to 898211.
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