211, saving lives since 2005


The services shown are all the resources that the 211 operators can connect people to. Graphic by: Brody Daw

Brody Daw

The local helpline 211VC connects all callers to resources that they can utilize within their lives

An average of 49.9 percent of adolescents have had mental health issues at some point within their lives. If these statistics were to be applied to Ventura High School, which currently has 2,303 students, approximately 1,151 of these students have struggled, or continue to struggle with their mental health. This data is from past years and as mental health issues continue to trend upward, the demand for resources such as the 211 number has increased accordingly among teenagers and people everywhere. The 211 number is used to provide information to callers about local resources that they can utilize regarding housing, mental health, health care, food, legal aid, transportation, childcare, financial assistance, substance use counseling, emergency resources and more. 

“When working as a 211VC Call Specialist, I spoke to a single mother who was experiencing homelessness with her three children in Ventura County. She explained that she had fled a domestic violence relationship and was living in her car with her kids. She had never called 211 before and did not know what to expect. I was able to assess her needs in a caring and empathetic manner and refer her to a Domestic Violence Response Team. When I followed up with her a few days later, she informed me that she received emergency housing and was assigned a case manager who helped her get a restraining order against her abuser, navigate crisis counseling enrollment, and move into transitional housing. During the follow-up call, I was able to provide her additional resources such as permanent housing, counseling, and public benefits including medical insurance, food stamps and work placement assistance. By the end of the call, she expressed gratitude and appreciation for our 211 services,” said 211 call specialist Gerardo Gonzalez. 

On average, the 211 call specialists and resources reach over 30,000 Ventura County annual callers. It is accessible 24/7 and is available in 150 languages. Hazel Richards ‘26 believes that mental health is a problem at VHS. She said, ”People have so much work at school and then they have to go home and do a ton of homework.” 

Eva Oliveras ‘26 said, “[I would seek resources for my mental health] depending on what [the resources] are. Some teachers here try to help out the kids but it would be interesting if there were outside resources.” 

Gonzalez has worked as a call specialist for nine years, connecting with people in need and helping them in any way possible. Gonzalez encourages students and family to reach out if they need help. He said, “Interface 211VC services are free, confidential and available 24/7. Anyone can text or call to speak to a friendly 211VC representative to be connected to the help they need. Or, if you prefer to find resources online, you can visit 211ventura.org for a comprehensive list of resources available in Ventura County. If you, or someone you know needs help, and you don’t know who to call or where to start, call 211 for assistance. We have a dedicated team of resource database curators who ensure our information and resources are verified, accurate and up to date.”

In refrence to when Gonzalez typically experiences the highest number of suicidal phone calls, he said, “The holiday season is a particularly difficult time of the year for many of our callers who lack the family and support that some of us are lucky to have. Generally, over the last few months of the year I tend to see a spike in mental health crisis calls. It’s important to note that we regularly receive mental health crisis calls because people in our communities face mental health and life challenges every day. Our staff are trained to help callers experiencing suicidal ideation or a mental health crisis. When callers express feeling suicidal, we ask a series of assessment questions to ensure their safety, and we contact emergency services when necessary. If the person in need is not in immediate danger of self-harm, we connect them to a Suicide Prevention Hotline and/or discuss mental health counseling services.”

The 211 number is used to provide information to callers about local resources that they can utilize regarding housing, mental health, health care, food, legal aid, transportation, childcare, financial assistance, substance use counseling, emergency resources and more. Screenshot by: Brody Daw

Gonzalez believes that his love for helping others sparked his passion for being a call specialist, He said, “I’ve worked at Interface Children & Family Services with 211VC for nine years. It was my first job after I graduated from Cal State University Channel Islands (CSUCI) where I studied psychology. I was hired as a 211VC Call Specialist. I remember being in my senior year in high school and realizing I wanted to help people in need, but I wasn’t quite sure how. All these years later I am doing some of the most challenging but rewarding work of my life.” 

Alongside primarily providing resources to callers that best suit their needs, Gonzalez claims that a big part of his job is dedicated to talking to callers. He said, “I also find that having a live person answer calls is at the core of the 211VC service experience. Besides information, resources and referrals, our callers need a caring and empathetic voice to provide them hope and encouragement to seek the help they need.”