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Support System: A new local helpline offers quick answers

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Bureaucracy can be frustrating, especially when a seemingly simple question needs a quick answer. Even more so if you have no clue who to call. A new local helpline (509-960-7281) hopes to combat this by providing free referrals and objective advice for seniors and people with disabilities.

"This service is meant to make connections smoother and better, so people don't waste time calling 20 different numbers looking for help," explains Ray White, director of disability and access services for Community-Minded Enterprises, a Spokane nonprofit.

"It uses a concept that has been around in social services called 'No Wrong Door.' There needs to be a place in each community where health and human services are offered. It's our job to show them the right door to get what they want," White adds.

The helpline's target demographic is seniors and people with disabilities, though family, caregivers, law enforcement and health care providers can also use it to find out how to access resources. Common helpline inquiries could be related to housing, in-home personal assistance, transportation, health insurance, assisted living and mental health services. In some cases, the line can direct callers regarding legal issues. Options counseling, when multiple solutions to a problem are at hand, also is offered.

"If someone understands what they need to do, but they can't do it, we can actually meet them someplace and provide some on-site assistance as well," White explains.

Other counties in Washington offer similar helplines. Spokane followed suit by going live with its helpline on Feb. 15. Calls are already pouring in, and with increased marketing of the helpline, White expects 300 to 500 calls each month. The program is funded by Aging and Long Term Care of Eastern Washington, through a mix of federal and state funds.

Beyond assistance on an individual basis, the new program also helps take pressure off police and fire departments, as non-emergency calls are redirected to the helpline.

Find out more at SpokaneHelpline.org, or by calling 960-7281.

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