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Valley Voices: Pointing families to services is name of his game

Finding affordable health care can be difficult for some families, so David Rivera takes a lot of pride in helping these families keep their children healthy without a huge financial burden.

Rivera, 38, of Modesto, works on behalf of the United Way of Stanislaus County's Healthy Families program, which provides affordable health insurance for children whose families earn too much to qualify for Medi-Cal.

Rivera also is one of the agency's specialists for its "211" call center. Through the social services hotline, Rivera links people looking for assistance with social, legal or health-related services.

Q: What's the most rewarding part of your job?

A: Knowing that I made a difference in someone's life. Knowing that a child that would normally go without insurance is going to have some kind of coverage, especially if they are undocumented. It's really rewarding that I made a difference, I did my part.

Q: What has surprised you most while working with families who can't afford health care?

A: The fact that they did not know about these programs that are available. And some of the rumors going around, especially for undocumented families who want to apply for state programs. They are afraid. They hear the rumors that if they apply, their children are going to be drafted into the military. It's misinformation and the lack of knowledge of the services that are out there.

Q: What is the 211 system?

A: 211 is the United Way of Stanislaus County's new information and referral hotline, which connects clients to everyday social services throughout Stanislaus County.

Q: How does it work?

A: For example, if a family in Ceres calls and says they need information on food banks in Ceres, we would look up on our database and give them available information of any food-banks in the Ceres area.

Q: Who should call 211?

A: Anyone who has a concern or needs any information or services such as food assistance, utility assistance or rental assistance. Depending on the call and if we can find it, we will try to connect that person to that service.

Q: How well has the public accepted it?

A: It's gone quite well. We've had a large number of calls since the program started. Especially now with the economy and foreclosures, we've had a lot of calls regarding that.

Q: Are people finding services they didn't know about, and what types of services are they finding?

A: Yes they are. They are finding services that help pay rent, utility assistance ... (and) support groups, like for people with brain injuries or autistic children.

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at or 578-2394.