Santa Barbara County nonprofit CommUnify hosts a celebration day for its 211 crisis line

The statewide information and referral system 211 provides people with help and human services, disaster relief, and general information about available local resources. 

Local nonprofit CommUnify oversees the Santa Barbara County helpline, which received 29,505 calls in 2021 and has been helping people since 2014, Community Services Director Kemba Lawrence said. 

click to enlarge Santa Barbara County nonprofit CommUnify hosts a celebration day for its 211 crisis line
IMMEDIATE ASSISTANCE : The 211 helpline can connect people to health and human services, disaster relief, and general information about services and resources available to them in their communities.

“It’s a staple throughout counties in California, but CommUnify took it on with the urges of Congressman Salud Carbajal to keep it in the community because he saw value in it,” Lawrence said. “It’s consistently grown in its presence in social service and emergency preparedness during the Montecito fires, mudslides, and the response to the coronavirus.” 

The helpline was highlighted as an alternative to calling 911 for nonemergency assistance more recently as the atmospheric rivers hit the county in early and mid January, causing flooding, road closures, and property damage. The 211 helpline connected residents to mental health services, social services, and other resources they may need, Lawrence said. 

“What I just found is 211 has always been ready and willing to be a partner in these times, and we’re just grateful to serve the community,” she said. “We’ve been supported consistently with the county, and it’s been amazing for us to grow and be here.” 

To highlight its contributions to the community, CommUnify is hosting a 211 Community Day Celebration on Feb. 11 at Lompoc’s Dick DeWees Community Center. This free event will have live music, kids activities, food trucks, and more than 50 community organizations in attendance, Lawrence said. 

During the event, community partners will talk about disaster preparedness; provide health, dental, and vision screenings; administer vaccines; and provide mental health related services to give residents the tools they need in case of emergencies, Lawrence said. 

“When families are in crisis, it’s definitely a stressful time and people could use this as an opportunity to educate and prepare no matter what their situation is. Knowing what’s out there will help our families in the planning process and understand where they [will] go when certain things come up,” she said. 

CommUnify realized after the pandemic that family needs are so diverse, Lawrence said, and many people found themselves reorganizing their priorities to address needs like mental health—something that is a challenge to address in some families. She added that she hopes county families will come out to the Feb. 11 event to understand not just emergency preparedness, but “life itself.”

“Hopefully they’ll find answers for questions in their daily lives like housing information, free medical services, things they might have thought were out of reach, unaffordable, or unacceptable,” she said. “We’re hoping they can find these things at Community Day as well as putting a smile on their faces and letting them know there are beautiful things in life as well.” 

From a personal perspective, Lawrence said she hopes people come to understand the importance of community and how helpful it is to have different levels of support during difficult times. 

“It’s all about unifying the community as well as services. The [211] partnership is a very close partnership with constant communication, and to make information accessible through three numbers is really time-saving. It can make the difference between life or death when you’re trying to find information,” she said.  

Community Day will be a free event running from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the Dick DeWees Community Center, 1120 West Ocean Ave. Nonprofits interested in participating can call (805) 964-8857,
Ext. 1145.


• Marian Regional Medical Center was recently awarded $1 million in federal funding in support of Marian’s new Obstetrics and Gynecology (OB/GYN) Residency Program Clinic. At the end of December 2022, President Joe Biden signed more than $22 million in direct federal funding for Central Coast community projects championed by U.S. Rep Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara). The $1 million federal funding award for Marian will specifically cover a portion of the costs associated with the medical equipment needs and construction fees for the 8,700-square-foot clinic. Services provided at the OB/GYN Residency Clinic will include prenatal and postpartum care with on-site access to ancillary services. A significant benefit of the clinic will be the addition of full-time translators in both Spanish and Mixteco languages. Additional services will include birthing education, postpartum and lactation support, perinatal mood disorder support, early parenting support, nutrition counseling, women’s preventive care, and acute and chronic management of gynecologic conditions.

Staff Writer Taylor O’Connor wrote this week’s Spotlight. Reach her at [email protected].

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