CVS Health Foundation grants $56K for 211 call center substance use counselors

PROVIDENCE — The United Way’s 211 call center will soon be able to bring in Anchor Recovery peer counselors on opioid and other substance use disorder-related calls thanks to a $56,100 grant from the CVS Health Foundation.

The free, confidential 211 help line, available 24/7, 365 days a year, provides guidance to people seeking social services to help them through crises. Operators are able to quickly direct people to services that can help them deal with challenges getting food, housing, paying for utilities or finding aid for seniors, said Sandi Connors, executive vice president at United Way Rhode Island.

With the grant, operators will receive training on knowing the situations requiring immediate assistance with a substance use disorder. The grant will also fund the use of counselors from Pawtucket-based Anchor Recovery, who will be available to connect in a three-way call immediately if the operator requests the help, Connors said. That quick response is a crucial element in making sure people seeking help are connected with it while they’re committed to accepting the aid.

“The window can be very short for these calls. If they get passed around too much, they may give up,” Connors said.

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Anchor Recovery, founded in 2010 by The Providence Center, is run by people with lived experience with addiction recovery.

The counselors and operating training accounts for $26,100 of the grant, said Connors. Marketing for the program, including advertising and a web page, accounted for $20,000, and an Outreach RV providing confidential screenings was $10,000.

“Every day, people from every corner of the state call 211 for help. Some are seeking help for elderly parents or childcare, others are looking for housing or food. By expanding our capabilities with generous support from the CVS Health Foundation, we’re able to assist a growing addiction crisis that aligns with the work we are already doing through the 211 call center,” said Anthony Maione, president and CEO of United Way of Rhode Island.

A list of addiction resources has also been added to the 211 website where anyone apprehensive about calling 211 by phone can review the resources or chat online with trained specialists.

“We are committed to ensuring that the communities we serve have access to the resources they need to help them on their path to better health,” said Eileen Howard Boone, president, CVS Health Foundation. “Through this partnership with the United Way, we hope to make it easier for patients, family members and caregivers affected by the opioid epidemic to find resources across our home state of Rhode Island.”

Rob Borkowski is a PBN staff writer. Email him at