Many San Diego families who have fallen on tough times rely on CalFresh (the modern iteration of food stamps) to purchase food from local grocers and farmers markets. But all too often, confusing guidelines and complex processes prevent people from receiving this vital food assistance. The County of San Diego’s Access Customer Service Call Center helps community based organizations and their clients navigate the process and access the benefits they’re eligible for. When a resident or community agency needs to speak with the County about a CalFresh case, they call the Access line. In some cases, however, clients need the additional support of a community partner to help them better understand the application or what’s happening with their case.
In 2013, on behalf of the CalFresh Task Force, the San Diego Hunger Coalition advocated for the launch of a separate phone line specifically for community-based organizations that help individuals apply for or maintain their CalFresh, Medi-Cal and CalWORKS benefits. The County responded and launched the “Access CBO Line” for Community Based Organizations.
Today, over 20 Access Customer Service Call Center staff answer an average of 270 calls each day on the Access CBO Line, continually decreasing the wait times for callers. Community advocates rely heavily on the Access CBO Line, because it enables them to skip the wait and quickly connect with a County staff member and ask about multiple client cases at the same time. This is the only county information phone line in the state specifically developed for community partners.
The Hunger Coalition continues to keep communication channels open between the Access Call Center team and community based organizations through the CalFresh Task Force. The Call Center’s staff presented at the countywide CalFresh Task Force meeting in August 2015, and invited Task Force members to visit and tour the Call Center in October. We look forward to continuing this open dialogue and feedback loop with the County and Call Center staff to support their commitment to providing the highest levels of customer service to individuals struggling with hunger and the community based organizations that support them.
You may learn more about the Access Customer Service Center on its website. In addition to the CBO line, the Access Call Center offers other specialized services such as Access2Health. The Access2Health team, created with implementation of the Affordable Care Act, handles calls and process applications from Covered California customers who are potentially eligible for expanded Medi-Cal. Access also responds to email requests received via the County’s public assistance email account (pubassist.HHSA@sdcounty.ca.gov) and call back requests generated through the MyBenefitsCalWIN website.