Reports the JS:
Also on the chopping block is funding for IMPACT, a non-profit group that operates Milwaukee County's 211 call center. The group would lose 90% of its county funding, from $480,000 last year to $46,958 this year.
The 211 centers link callers to community services, including food pantries, emergency shelter, utility assistance, low-cost home rentals, and alcohol- or drug-treatment referrals.
When the 211 service began in 2002, the center took 58,000 calls. This year, it will take an estimated 130,000. Mike Davis, president and CEO of IMPACT, said the proposed budget would cut the number of calls taken by about 55,000.At first glance, the $3.69 per call cost of operating the line may not seem cost-effective at all. In fact, the county absolutely should look at ways to reduce that cost, either by increasing the volume of calls to the center through an awareness campaign or by actually cutting costs.
But cut the budget? Supervisors ought to put this on the morality weigh scale: operating the 211 line costs the county significantly less per call than the county charges for many generally destitute inmates to call collect from the House of Correction or County Jail.
That amount is $5.50 a call, unless the inmate has a debit card -- then it's $3.30. (The latter is 39 cents less than the cost of the 211 call, but I'm betting most inmates aren't getting the lower rate because they don't have the required debit cards and the average cost of the calls is going to be more than $3.69.)
If county government is unwilling to spend as much to help residents get needed social services as it will charge for an inmate to talk to a loved one on the outside, then something is beyond repair in county government.
Here's a thought: how about looking for ways to reduce both of these costs?