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United Way's Coronavirus Call Center Helps Control 911 Call Volume

The United Way of the Plains
The United Way's 211 helpline was designated as the COVID-19 screening number for the Sedgwick County Health Department. The call center has received more than 6,000 calls about the coronavirus since the beginning of March.

The United Way of the Plains’ 211 helpline is receiving about a call per minute in Sedgwick County due to the coronavirus. 


“When we started doing screening for COVID-19 testing for the Sedgwick County Health Department, we got up to over 500 calls per day,” said Delane Butler, vice president of marketing for United Way. “That’s when we started getting up to a call per minute.”


Last month, the call center was designated by the county as the official health screener for COVID-19 in an effort to control the volume of calls to 911. The center has received nearly 15,000 calls since the beginning of March; more than 6,000 of those calls were directly related to the coronavirus.


Elora Forshee is the director of emergency communications for Sedgwick County. She said the volume of 911 calls has been manageable, thanks to United Way’s help. 


“[United Way] has handled so many of the coronavirus questions and diagnostic calls that it has actually created some breathing room for us,” Forshee said. “We’re not seeing a ton of non-emergency calls.”


Butler said there are seven United Way staff members that regularly take 211 calls in Sedgwick County. An additional nine staff were recruited to help in the call center in March.


United Way also established a pandemic fund to assist people in need. So far, the fund has received more than $800,000 in donations, including a $500,000 grant from the Kansas Health Foundation last week.

Butler said that more than 400 people have donated to the fund by buying a "ICT United" T-shirt.