Social Work College students Reply the Name As Frontline Disaster Staff Throughout a Pandemic: Information at IU: Indiana College

211, a free service that connects Hoosiers to resources around the clock, had made an average of 20,000 calls per month in early 2020.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the US, that number quickly rose to 20,000 calls a day from people searching for information related to and helping with lost wages, evictions, insecurity and other pandemic-related challenges.

Almost immediately after this unprecedented rise, the Indiana University School of Social Work students were at the forefront. As of March 2020, 29 students at the school – 28 with a master’s degree in social work and one with a bachelor’s degree – have been working for their degrees at Indiana 211 as part of the internship.

“It’s easy to forget, but Indiana 211 was an Indiana pandemic first responder before we even understood the disease or whether there was any hope of a vaccine,” said Erika Galyean, an associate clinical professor for the Master of Social Work program at the IU School of Social Work, which saw students serve in Indiana 211.

“Anytime there was a new announcement about changes to local health laws or practices – such as social distancing, masking, testing, or even asking if it was safe to go to work – the dismissed them People at 211, “said Galyean, who was also giving field classes to the participating students. “Almost overnight, they received hundreds of calls from employers and citizens.”

IU’s partner in the collaboration is Jaimie Ferren, Indiana 211 associate director for the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration. She and Galyean met through Galyean’s role as a member of the state’s Resiliency and Emotional Support , a volunteer team that provides mental support to first responders to crisis and disaster , including workers in Indiana 211. After an initial conversation with Galyean, it became clear that the IU School of Social Work is capable of addressing the sudden shortage of telephone crisis workers that is required for the huge increase in callers.

The partnership also benefited students, many of whom suddenly lost their social work internship due to the pandemic. Such internships are a prerequisite for graduation, but thanks to the Indiana 211 partnership, no student who accepted an alternative internship at 211 had to extend their graduation date. Because the call center work was done remotely, MSW students from four IU locations – IUPUI, IU Bloomington, IU Northwest, and IU South Bend – as well as students from the MSW Direct online program were able to participate.

“Indiana 211 crisis calls were challenging me every day,” said Ashley Asante-Doyle, an MSW Direct student who worked on the service until late last year. “Hearing some of the stories was heartbreaking. I’ve had some angry callers and some emergencies … but overall the experience was great. I chose a career in social work to help and work with Indiana 211 gave me the opportunity to help. “

In addition to questions about COVID-19 tests and wearing masks, Asante-Doyle asked questions about food insecurity. the federal eviction moratorium; Assistance with car payments and monthly ancillary costs; Protection; mental health services; and requests to be placed in a quarantine facility.

Students working with the call center choose a time to log in between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. The shifts last four hours. Calls start instantly and go back to back. During a typical shift, Ferren said one person could handle about 25 calls.

“Indiana 211 is really important to the state of Indiana,” said Asante-Doyle. “Without them, Hoosier families would not have access to resources for transfer or emergency support. This is also a great opportunity for organizations to bring their resources to the community.”

In addition to the IU School of Social Work, Ferren received support from other local nonprofit and government agencies, as well as contact tracing staff from the Indiana Department of Health, according to Indiana 211.

In order to coordinate the calls, Asante-Doyle communicated with colleagues via an online group chat. Indiana 211 also divided students into different service lines that focused on specific topics. MSW students most often worked on lines for COVID-19 inquiries, e.g. B. clarifications on public restrictions and subsequent access to vaccines and a line for rental support.

To complement the student’s on-site experience, Galyean has included topics relevant to her work in Indiana 211 in the classroom, such as: B. Discussions and readings on crisis intervention work and practicing coping skills to combat “compassionate fatigue”. Students were also asked to identify journal articles on crisis intervention topics and compare the research with their own experiences.

“I loved working with the students at the IU School of Social Work,” said Ferren. “They were all excited about new experiences and knowledge and provided great insights and feedback that we could incorporate into our work.”

According to Galyean, among other things, the students conducted an employee survey on inclusivity and diversity, which led to recommendations on how to improve training on these topics. Another group conducted a “Customer Satisfaction Survey” that included people who were helped by the call center.

However, Asante-Doyle said the managers’ willingness to provide constructive feedback and the willingness of the faculty to listen to students about their experiences stood out the most. She also said that she and her fellow students kept in touch outside of internship hours to provide feedback or words of encouragement.

Although no IU students are currently answering calls to Indiana 211 during the summer sessions, Galyean said the partnership has been so successful that Indiana 211 is becoming a permanent internship location for IU and MSW students are returning for autumn internships in August.

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