The Riverside County Department of Public Health sent four public health workers — Kevin Meconis, James Atkins, Martin Baxter and Anne Accurso — to the Idyllwild Library Tuesday night, April 14, to discuss health and other social needs with Hill residents. Twenty-two local residents attended and expressed concerns and suggestions in addition to asking questions.

The public health personnel described the county’s 211 program that serves to advise callers of the wide-ranging services available to county residents and to refer them to the agencies that can best help them with their needs.

The county’s 211 fliers, in both English and Spanish, describe the 211 program’s purpose as:

“Providing information and referrals to: food pantry/food stamps, shelter and housing services, breast-cancer resources, free and low-cost computers, employment opportunities, health and dental care, legal assistance, advocacy, counseling, volunteer opportunities, child care and parenting resources, support groups, youth and senior services … and 3,000 additional programs.”

“Le proveemos información acerca de: despensas de comida, albergues y viviendas, computadoras económicas, empleos, atención médica y dental, ayuda legal, abogacía, consejería, donde prestar servicio voluntario, ayuda con cuidado infantil, clases para los padres, grupos de apoyo, programas para adolescentes, programas para personas de la tercera edad, servicios para personas minusválidas … y 3,000 programas adiciónales.”

Many in attendance appeared unfamiliar with 211 and all that it offers, and several residents suggested that the county needs to make the program more highly visible to the people in need of it.

The suggestion was made that, since the 211 fliers are already on line, people can see them there, but Kent Weishaus, clinical social worker/therapist in Idyllwild, pointed out that often the patients he treats cannot afford an Internet connection and do not even have transportation to get to the library to use the public computers there. And Dr. Kenneth Browning, local physician, related that some of the people he treats cannot afford the gasoline to make health-care appointments off the Hill.

Resident Jan Goldberg suggested the county post more notices in the Town Crier, but others pointed out that the people in most financial need cannot afford to subscribe to the paper or even to purchase an individual issue. Many called for notices and fliers to be posted at the post office, but it is not clear whether those same people are able to afford a post-office box or the transportation to regularly get to it, if they had one.

Browning stated that he would be happy to make the 211 fliers available at his office. Browning also emphasized that his office is open six days a week, and the only thing keeping his office from performing as an urgent-care center is the lack of X-ray capability. He said Hill residents very badly need an X-ray machine, but about $160,000 would be needed to purchase one.

Dr. Richard Goldberg remarked that initial-case finding was needed because some people are not even aware of their specific health needs, much less the resources available to address them. He further suggested that the county’s mobile clinic come up to Idyllwild more frequently with flu and other vaccines, and that the county find a way to periodically send medical specialists up the Hill.

Other local residents related personal experiences and rendered suggestions as well. But there appeared to be overwhelming agreement that the county needed to better get the message out regarding its Call 211 program, and that the services available through that program would be of significant benefit to those most in need of them.

At the close of the meeting, the county public health workers stated that it had been one of their more successful and well-attended local county-wide meetings, and they were grateful for the many new ideas and suggestions they had received.23