LinkedIn Share This Email

In February we celebrate 211 Day across the nation.  


We are proud that at the end of the phone line, there is a compassionate person saving a life, transforming a family, or changing a community…one phone call at a time, 24/7/365. 

211 is a unique asset to our state partners and communities – serving as a “one stop shop” to connect people to services and benefits that meet their urgent needs and improve their lives.

This newsletter celebrates our work to help people in Connecticut thrive through trusted partnerships and innovative solutions, as well as the work of our terrific 211 team for carrying on our mission today and every day.  


211 is here for YOU. Every hour of every day, United Way of Connecticut's 211 is here to help. Call 2-1-1 or visit our website.




In FY22, the 211 Mental Health Crisis Team handled 146,776 crisis calls. These calls represent a 16% increase over FY21 and comprise 42% of all calls to 211.

So, what does this have to do with Gizmo, you ask?

Gizmo, the narrator of Gizmo’s Pawesome Guide to Mental Health, is a therapy dog. For the past 12 years, he has been comforting people when they are feeling sad, mad, or worried and, through his Pawesome Guide, provides school-aged children with the tools they need to manage their mental health. But Gizmo is aging and in 2023 is preparing to retire with a farewell retirement tour.

We took some time to speak with Gizmo as he reflects on the impact of his work and his upcoming retirement.

Gizmo shares that “I work in schools a lot. So, I see lots of kids and I love all those kids a lot! I bet I would love every kid in the whole wide world a lot! So that's why I’ve used my platform to advocate for mental health, especially for children.”

“Let me tell you about one of the most profound experiences I’ve had as a therapy dog/mental health advocate. One time I was at that big high school walking down the hall. Mom thought we were going to the office, but I had other plans. As we turned a corner, we saw a girl we hadn't met before. She was all by herself and crying softly. As soon as I saw her, I stopped at her feet and would not budge. She dropped to the floor right away to be closer to me and said, "Gizmo, I knew I would find you today!" (That's when I jumped into her lap.)

She told us this was her first day at our school and that she had just moved here all the way from Ill..Illa…Illanoise. Then she opened her almost empty backpack and pulled out the only item in it: a copy of Gizmo's Pawesome Guide to Mental Health. She explained that her former teacher gave it to her because she knew the move to CT was super hard for her, and that she might feel sad, mad or worried.

The student told me she didn't even know I was in Connecticut, much less inside her new school. So, I pawtographed her book. Then I made sure she got connected with lots of trusted adults. That's super important to help kids do that!”


Gizmo’s Pawesome Guide to Mental Health© is a social-emotional learning curriculum, currently being used in 20 Connecticut schools, that gives kids the tools to manage their mental health. The Guide and Curriculum help kids learn:

  • Mental health is as important as physical health.
  • How to identify when mental health needs attention.
  • Daily activities and healthy coping strategies that support mental health.
  • How to identify and connect with trusted adults.

The curriculum was developed, with the support of federal grant funding, by United Way of Connecticut and key state agencies including the Departments of Mental Health and Addiction Services and Children and Families, the Suicide Advisory Board, and other dedicated partners.



School Meals are an Essential Ingredient to Education

Share YOUR Story with the

Appropriations Committee on Thursday

  The campaign for no-cost school meals continues this week!

Success! The emergency actions taken by the Legislature and signed by the Governor last week funds free school meals for the remainder of this academic year. 

This week is our chance to ask legislators to support permanent no-cost school meals for all Connecticut students.

Tell your story why school meals matter. Here's how:

1) Testify at Thursday's Public Hearing

  • Register to testify in-person or via Zoom by the deadline TODAY at 3pm. 

2) Submit your story via written testimony

  • Long or short your stories matter! Submit written testimony. 

3) Call your legislators and ask for their support

  • Calls matter. Take 5 minutes to ask your state Senator and Representative to support permanent no-cost meals.

It's Tax Time

In order to qualify for either the Connecticut Child Tax Credit or Earned Income Tax Credit, you must first file your 2022 income taxes. You can file with a social security number or an ITIN. Schedule your free tax preparation appointment now. Click here to learn what documents you need to bring with you to your appointment. 

70 percent of Americans qualify for free tax prep. Find out if you qualify: 


Plus, check out these resources for more information: 


Tanya Barrett

Senior Vice President

211 Health and Human Services

If there’s anyone at United Way of Connecticut (UWC) who can provide a retrospective and celebrate the progress and success of 211 over the years, it is Tanya Barrett! Tanya began working at UWC in 1998 in the HUSKY (Health Insurance for Uninsured Kids and Youth) Infoline unit. HUSKY was a new program and people had a lot of questions about the program and how to access services once enrolled.

She shares that “one of the biggest changes I have seen throughout the years is our use of technology. Believe it or not, when I first started 25 years ago, contact specialists shared computers! We took calls via a phone on our desks, researched options via notebooks, documented the case on paper, and then took turns using the computer for data entry. Today, we use the computer to receive calls, to curate and find community resources and for case data entry/reporting.”

“Over the years, with the support of the UWC team, I have had some amazing opportunities to make a difference in the lives of CT residents. In my role as a contact specialist, I served one individual or family at a time, providing information and advocating for needed services. There is no better feeling of accomplishment than being able to connect an individual or family to a needed community service at the right time. Whether it was helping someone get connected to food, childcare, health insurance, financial support, shelter or de-escalating a mental health crisis, each interaction was different and critically important for the person seeking the service. At UWC we offer one stop shopping - if I identified other needs, I could consult with or warm transfer to a colleague from another department.”

Tanya’s background and experiences are in the human services field, and she is committed to lifelong learning.  “In 2022, exactly twenty years after completing my master’s degree, I completed the coursework and licensure requirements for the Licensed Professional Counselor - Associate credential. Crisis intervention and Suicide prevention is a big part of the work we do at 211, last year we implemented 988, the national three digit dialing code for crisis and suicide intervention. Crisis calls have increased significantly during this time and the need for mental health and wellness services has never been more pronounced than in the aftermath of the COVID pandemic.” 

As she looks toward the future, Tanya sees 211 growing new channels, new users and user needs, new technology and new service offerings built on, and honoring, the simple concept of connecting people with the services they need to improve their lives. She reveals that her wish for 211 is that “every member of the 211 team understands just how important their work is and how much they help make a difference in the lives of those we serve. Often people looking for assistance don’t know where to turn when they come to us, and the kindness, compassion, and professional knowledge of the voice on the other end of the phone can make all the difference.”

When Tanya is not working, serving in her community or taking a class, her favorite activities include eating good pizza (Pepe’s or other New Haven pizza), travel, yoga, golf, shopping, and planting flowers.

Tanya shares that she’s “grateful that I get to work at UWC and be a part of this fabulous team that is filled with amazing people doing great things. We also get to think about social service system design and change, which creates opportunities for us to get into a little ‘good trouble’ together.”

And we are so grateful for Tanya – for her experience, expertise and compassion.



211 responded to 3 million+ inquiries by phone and on the web in FY22 from people seeking help!

211 Connecticut secured the AIRS stamp of approval again, winning an award as one of the top three re-accreditation performers in the past year.

There are many crisis lines, and they all lead to 211.


Facebook  Instagram  YouTube  Twitter  LinkedIn

United Way of Connecticut

1344 Silas Deane Highway, Rocky Hill, CT 06067