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211 United Way vaccine assist line beefs up services for new phase of eligibility

To date, they’ve fielded 110,000 calls and have booked appointments for about 45,000 residents, about 20% of the total vaccine appointments for CT.

ROCKY HILL, Conn. — In just a few days, half a million more Connecticut residents will be eligible to book a vaccine appointment. One of the ways you can do it is by calling the United Way 211 COVID vaccine appointment assist line. 

To date, they’ve fielded 110,000 calls and have booked appointments for about 45,000 residents, about 20% of the total vaccine appointments for the state of Connecticut. Veena Channamsetty, the Chief Medical Officer for Community Health Center Inc. said, "It’s very important when it is your turn to get the vaccine to make that appointment."

You can do that via the United Way 211 COVID vaccine appointment assistance line. Cietta Bartell is one of about 150 call specialists. Cietta said, "I actually have people who cry when I talk to them over the telephone because of excitement and joy. They are happy to get an appointment so it’s actually a very rewarding job I would say."

All of the call specialists can work remotely from home. Right now, they are able to handle about 5,000 calls each day but with a new phase of eligibility set to begin Monday, that will increase to 10,000. "We're making this work," said Lisa Tepper Bates, the CEO of the United Way of Connecticut. "It’s a wild ride but it’s one that we are used to," added Tonya Barrett, the Senior Vice President of 211 Health and Human Services Division.

At the state’s direction, the United Way was able to stand up the call center in one week. Originally, they were only able to schedule appointments at Rentschler Field. They’ve since expanded their list of providers to hit nearly every geographical area of the state. "Really pleased to say we have 20 locations from one end of the state to the other that we will be booking every day, seven days a week," said Tepper Bates.

On this day there was a zero-minute wait. All the call data is tracked and monitored from who is on a call, to who is available to the occasional complaint. "I think the biggest challenge is that there is no precedent for this experience. When there are no appointments left for the week, that’s something we can’t control," said Tepper Bates, who is asking for patience.

The 211-call center can help if you have trouble navigating technology, but it also has multi-lingual support for Spanish, Portuguese and, "For those languages, we don’t have in house we actually use the language interpretation services by phone and it allows us to connect with people who speak over 135 different languages," said Barrett.

There’s also support for the deaf and hearing impaired. "Whether it’s video call of a TDD machine they are able to communicate back and forth with an operator who then translates to us," explained Barrett.

The United Way of Connecticut says this endeavor fits like a glove with their community service-centered mission. They are even lending a hand to help Texas residents with their cold-weather crisis.

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