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2-1-1 and DHS Team Up to Address Furnace Repairs in Ice Storm

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Last winter’s dangerous ice and snow storms left Michiganders with all sorts of emergency needs, not the least of which included broken furnaces that happened in the worst of times.

In the midst of these challenges, 2-1-1’s growing collaborative relationship with governmental entities, including the Michigan Department of Human Services, resulted in a profound impact on service delivery to residents and a success story worth telling.

During the winter storms of 2013-14, Michigan 2-1-1 brought new awareness to an unintended consequence of government regulations, helping to improve a crisis response that made a difference in the personal safety of struggling homeowners.

It began shortly after the end of the December holidays when DHS contacted Michigan 2-1-1 to learn how the unprecedented weather was affecting callers to 2-1-1.  In response, regional 2-1-1 partners were able to provide important and immediate data and anecdotal reports to support the work of DHS, the Michigan Public Service Commission and the Michigan State Police.

“The importance of this information sharing became clear when the Northeast Michigan 2-1-1 center in Midland reported several DHS clients needing furnace repairs – at the time DHS policy required two estimates before authorizing a repair,” said Michigan 2-1-1 Executive Director Tom Page.  

“During the extreme cold this created a double hardship,” he added. “First, it was nearly impossible to get two companies to provide estimates; second, most companies now charge for an estimate if you don’t use them for the repair.  

DHS’s response to Michigan 2-1-1’s findings was swift. Within an hour of receiving the information from 2-1-1, DHS clarified the department’s requirements saying it would require only one estimate to authorize repairs because of the dire circumstances.

“This information was immediately shared with the 2-1-1 centers and by the end of the day we had reports from across the state that repairs had been completed,” Page said.  

In a follow-up debriefing to the storm, Deputy DHS Director Terry Beurer praised the work of the 2-1-1 team before a gathering of the Michigan 2-1-1 Operations Council.

“You have been awesome to work with and I think this is a text book definition of collaboration,” Beurer said.

Michigan 2-1-1 partners with DHS to promote enrollment for state benefits through the state’s MI-BRIDGES program and to assist the new Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency by integrating the state’s new veterans’ assistance call center onto the Michigan 2-1-1 system. Page said it is the first time nationally that a veterans service program has integrated its work so fully with a 2-1-1 program.