(The Center Square) – More than 20 years after legislation was enacted to create 211 as the official Washington state dialing code for health and human services, a new bill hopes to strengthen the service and develop an app to better connect those in need.
Sen. Chris Gildon, R-Puyallup, is the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 5943.
“This bill is about connecting people in need to services,” he said. “For instance, if I was to come up to you on the street and say I’m having a lot of trouble, I need help with my rent – or if someone says they have a child addicted to drugs; where can I go get help? – this will tell you.”
Gildon says during his time in the Legislature he’s learned there are so many different organizations trying to help, but despite the fact they are all doing really good things, no one knows about them.
“The state agencies maintain a number of databases for service, but they are not always clear and easy to find,” he said. “So the bill I’m proposing would task Washington 211 with creating a database of all the services that are available, both public and private, then put that database into an app that you can download on your phone and make available to everyone.”
“I’m calling it the whole Washington app,” he said, “because it’s for the whole state and it’s meant to make you whole in whatever area you may be lacking.”
Gildon went on to say, “This is fiscally responsible, too, because right now we have all these state agencies that are maintaining their own database of services, and by consolidating this into one organization, you’re relieving those agencies from that burden and you’re bringing in the data in a way that makes it shareable.”
The bill has cleared the full Senate and moved on to the House of Representatives, with some changes the sponsor is less than thrilled about.
“Unfortunately the go-and-build app part of the bill was pulled out in committee, and so now we’re going to do a study over this next year, and I’ll have to come back next year with a bill to implement the app,” Gildon explained.
Gildon told The Center Square he can’t understand resistance to moving forward with the app, given he has wide support for the legislation.
“I’m talking organizations that don’t seem friendly to Republicans, including United Way, which has made this a top-3 priority for this year, and Planned Parenthood, which signed up pro,” he said. “I have no idea why they pulled the actual go-and-build the app language from the bill.”
Still, the senator says he’s hopeful that the whole Washington app will be a go this time next year.
“It’s just a matter of pointing people in the right direction where they can go find out which services are available,” he said. “If you need a winter warming shelter, you can click on the app and literally all the shelters who have space will come up, along with directions to the nearest bus stop to get there or a phone number to dial.”
Gildon also hopes that information on the app will be in real time, so anyone searching can see if there’s space in a shelter, or if someone is available to help immediately, whatever that need is.