Joco 913

Johnson County launches OneAssist — a one-stop phone answering service

People desperate for help with utilities, mental health and poverty issues will no longer have to stare at a list of county departments and wonder where to start

Thank Johnson County’s new one-stop phone answering desk.

OneAssist, launched last week , is designed to give people in need a simple first stop on the way to finding help. County officials hope it will simplify things for people who don’t know where to turn.

Calls to 913-715-8989 will be answered by a social worker who can sort out which agencies to ask for help. The answerer can also point callers toward help at the state or federal level, if appropriate. The number will be answered during business hours, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The OneAssist program has been about two years in the making and is the result of the county commission’s pledge to help people struggling with poverty become more self sufficient, said Assistant County Manager Maury Thompson.

Up to this point, the county’s services have been a little harder to find. Someone looking for help with mental health problems might know to call the county mental health department, for example. But often other problems are intertwined that require different departments. With the new number, the person can get referrals to several agencies at once.

“If you’re someone struggling with poverty and you call health and human services, this will be a help,” Thompson said. The respondents will be able to help callers sort through the various services provided by four county departments — health and environment, human services, mental health and developmental supports.

The new phone number does not come with an additional budget request, Thompson said. The phone answerers will be former directors of the county multi-service centers. Those centers provide help and referrals for people in need also. The number of multi-service centers has been recently reduced, with some directors moving to OneAssist, he said.

The number may eventually help the county in other ways, Thompson said. With calls coming first to one number, the county may be able to better track what services are being provided and used the most, and how efficiently the callers’ needs are being met.

In a few months the new number will be followed up with a web page that will outline more clearly which services the county offers from which departments, he said.