Shifting needs: mental health, housing, utility requests up

Americans needs are shifting 12 weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic. The fastest rising need? Mental health. To explore changing needs over time, we examined over 2 million requests to 2-1-1s, comparing three 25-day time periods during the pandemic: March 15 – April 8 (early), April 9 – May 3 (middle), and May 4 – May 28 (late). In the early phase, mental health requests made up less than 4% of all calls to 2-1-1, but has grown steadily to over 6% — an increase of 53%. The proportions seeking help with housing and utilities are also rising, while the proportions requesting assistance with food, employment and healthcare are in decline. The top two needs in the early phase were housing and healthcare, each accounting for 17% of all requests. Since then, the proportion of requests related to healthcare, which include all calls about COVID symptoms, testing and treatment, have declined by 23%, while housing requests, which include rent assistance, have increased by 25%. By the same metrics, utility payment requests are up 23% , and food and employment requests are down 39% and 26%, respectively. 2-1-1 call volume in all three periods is much higher than pre-COVID, but has declined 30% from the early to late period. Examining proportions of calls therefore provides the best indicator of the relative prevalence of needs experienced at different time points, even if the absolute number of calls is stable or declining. Mouse over each segment in each bar in the chart below to see the proportion of requests to 2-1-1s during each time period. Analyses include 2-1-1s in all or parts of 31 states that participate in a daily tracking system: AL, AR, CA, CT, DE, FL, HI, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, NC, NE, NJ, NV, NY, OH, PA, SC, SD, TN, VA, WI and WY. The “other” category in the chart combines all requests besides food, housing, utilities, healthcare, mental health and employment.

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