NJ 2-1-1 Newsletter - Spring 2016
NJ 2-1-1 Partnership Works with NJ Department of Health in Launching Diabetes Management and Prevention Initiative
The New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) is partnering with NJ 2-1-1 to link New Jerseyans with community-based resources in dealing with a critical public health concern – preventing and managing diabetes. Type 2 diabetes, also commonly known as “adult onset” diabetes, is on the rise in our state, though it can be prevented and its symptoms can be reduced or eliminated by taking active steps.
NJDOH is participating in the national Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), a year-long program aimed at preventing type 2 diabetes, and is launching an information campaign to help the public realize better health outcomes in the face of concerning data. Diabetes, a disease that results in high glucose (sugar) levels in a person’s blood which prevents the body from using insulin properly, is the sixth leading cause of death in the state among adults. Almost one-third of New Jersey adult residents age 25-65 have diabetes, and it is getting worse. From 1996 to 2010, the estimated rate of new adult diabetes cases more than doubled in New Jersey. Although diabetes can lead to many serious health issues, treatment and healthy lifestyle habits can prevent or delay these complications.
NJ 2-1-1 is a lead partner with DoH and is committed to providing the most up-to-date information on diabetes prevention and education to its callers. As part of this initiative, when a caller expresses an interest in learning more on this topic, 2-1-1 call specialists will provide them with information about programs in their area that are providing diabetes prevention and education assistance.
At present there are nearly one hundred Diabetes Management Clinics participating in the program around the state. They can be found by typing "Diabetes Management Clinics" in the search box on our website, or by speaking with a 2-1-1 call specialist. Readers are invited to learn more about the Diabetes Management and Prevention Program.
The diabetes initiative with DoH is 2-1-1’s newest public health resource. Please also refer to our website for information on a wide range of health matters. Recently added pages include coverage of the Zika virus and lead poisoning.
NJ2-1-1 Partnership Leaders Provide Roadmap to Policy Priorities
In 2015 alone, the NJ 2-1-1 Partnership provided resource assistance to over 350,000 people who called 2-1-1 or visited our website. With roughly 3,000 agencies in the organization’s resource database and over 10,000 programs and services listed, NJ 2-1-1 provides the public with front door access to non-profit, government and faith-based services, as well as disaster response information.
As a result of the unique position that we are in, we are able to provide real-time data and trend information that can be used by state officials for proactive planning and budget allocation. NJ 2-1-1 Partnership leaders have been turning up to share this valuable data with state policy makers.
On January 27, the organization presented data to the Assembly Human Services Committee and the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee, which were hearing from invited guests as part of Speaker Prieto’s focus on addressing poverty. Similarly, Chairwoman of NJ 2-1-1 Partnership’s board of directors, Gina Plotino, presented data and testimony to the Assembly Budget Committee on March 21 as well as in written form to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.
NJ 2-1-1 Partnership is committed to having the State of New Jersey benefit from data trends that can be gleaned from the needs of the large sample of callers and web visitors whom the organization serves. Nearly half (46%) of all the people who reached out to us were looking for help with the most basic needs - -food, a safe and warm place to live and healthcare.
- 20% of those requests were from individuals and families seeking temporary financial assistance for their most urgent needs – everything from housing to medical expenses to child care to car repair so they can continue working.
- 15% were requests for housing, ranging from emergency shelter to foreclosure prevention.
- 6% of that total needed help paying for utility bills to prevent shut-off.
- 5% sought help as a result of food insecurity.
Most frequent referrals and connections were made to:
- LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program)
- NJ Housing Resource Center (administered by NJ Department of Community Affairs, NJDCA)
- Food Pantries
- Homeless Shelters
- Volunteer Income Tax Assistance sites
- Community Action and Family Services Agencies
Dashboard data is available on a statewide, as well as a county-wide basis, and may be requested by contacting Tom Mergola, Director of Operations.
Options for Summer Fun Abound
Many pages of our website are devoted to seasonal topics and this is especially true for the summer months. You can learn all about low-cost camping options, find locations for free/cheap entertainment options at local parks and other community centers, educate yourself on heat-stroke (and how to avoid it!), and much more by visiting these pages.
Over 12,000 in NJ find Tax Preparation Assistance through NJ 2-1-1
The NJ 2-1-1 Partnership is once again providing direction to New Jersey residents who are looking for tax preparation assistance through an IRS program known as VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance). By compiling a comprehensive listing of nearly 250 tax assistance sites that are located throughout the state, NJ 2-1-1 has fulfilled its mission of connecting those in need of assistance with those who can help. Under expansions to the state’s program, a working family making less than $53,267 in 2015, may qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) which could lead to a tax refund of $6,242 this year. Over 6,100 people have visited the tax assistance pages on the organization's website and 6,115 callers have been directed to local tax assistance centers.
Free assistance in the preparation of federal and state income tax returns (using the simple tax form) is available for taxpayers of every age at local VITA sites and AARP sites in every county in New Jersey. At these sites, individuals of low to moderate income, individuals with disabilities and non-English speaking taxpayers can find assistance in filing their returns and benefitting from the EITC.
By calling the NJ 2-1-1 call center or accessing the website, those seeking tax preparation assistance will be directed to the sites in their area, advised on what materials to bring to these sessions and whether the household may qualify for EITC. Sessions are available on an appointment or walk-in basis, depending on location. Some centers have active scheduling links through the 2-1-1 website. Local United Ways of Greater Mercer County, Greater Philadelphia and Southern NJ, Hunterdon County, Passaic County and Northern NJ permit our call specialists to schedule the appointment for them.
Gina Plotino, Board Chairwoman of the NJ 2-1-1 Partnership said, “Every year working people of limited means leave money on the table by not availing themselves of EITC. NJ 2-1-1 worked to get out the word early to link eligible members of the community with this important benefit. So far this season, we have informed thousands of people of the resources that exist for free tax assistance – and the season is not yet over.”
Most VITA sites in New Jersey will be taking appointments through mid-April, some as late as the 18th (which is the 2016 deadline for filing taxes). Review the 2-1-1 website to confirm dates and to learn how to set an appointment at a center in your community.
The NJ 2-1-1 website provides visitors with full access to the NJ 2-1-1 resource database of over 10,000 programs and services and is organized to allow users to ‘self-serve’ by providing comprehensive information like application links, application agency locations, eligibility guidelines and critical dates, among others. Special sections of the site are devoted to such topics as Emergency Preparedness, Family Services, Home Energy Assistance, Utility Assistance, and Resources for the Unemployed among others. See a broad topic list in our Get Help With section.
2-1-1 is the free, user-friendly phone number that serves 90% of America's population, and connects some 16 million people a year to critical resources, information and services. NJ 2-1-1 was there for the people of New Jersey through more than 350,000 unique calls or web visits for help last year. Available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, NJ 2-1-1 provides services in multiple languages and serves the hearing impaired through its TTY services.