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.