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SPRINGFIELD — A new online community-resource database for the Western Mass. region, 413Cares.org, has been launched, providing residents the ability to access critical information, resources, and referrals to community-serving organizations from one online portal.

The launch of the portal, in the works for three years, comes at a particularly urgent time, with the COVID-19 pandemic causing many individuals and families to search for vital services.

As a single online point of contact, 413Cares efficiently connects people in the region to critical services they may need, including housing, food and nutrition, healthcare, transportation, early education, and more. The new site is expected to serve individuals and families impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with needs for community resources dramatically increasing due to the crisis.

The development of the resource portal and platform was the result of a community-driven process led by the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts (PHIWM) and Baystate Health, and was soft-launched early in 2020.

The 413Cares portal helps individuals seeking services; those assisting individuals needing services, such as nurses, case managers, and family members; and organizations where individuals receive services, such as medical providers and community-based organizations. Individuals looking for housing, food pantries, or early-education programming will find it all online through the portal.

413Cares is the locally branded version of the Aunt Bertha national platform and is fully HIPAA-compliant, mobile-friendly, and can be translated into more than 100 languages. The resource has also established a Facebook page, facebook.com/413cares, where the public can learn more about the new platform and available resources.

The Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts is managing the new portal, which was established with initial funding by Baystate Health. According to Jessica Collins, PHIWM executive director, “this new service and the 413Cares online portal will serve as a critical resource for the people of our region, and is even more urgently needed now in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The availability of this resource, at this time, will quickly and efficiently connect people in need with the resources they need.”

The portal is populated by community-serving organizations in the region ‘claiming’ their listings on 413Cares.org to ensure their program information is accurate and up to date, which helps the public find services more efficiently. To date, 59 organizations in the region representing 176 programs have claimed and updated their listings on the portal. Organizations are encouraged to claim their listing by visiting 413Cares.org and clicking on ‘List Your Organization.’

Current data for 413Cares shows that the majority of searches are for housing services, including help with finding housing, paying for housing, or emergency shelter (32.5%); food services, such as emergency food sources like food pantries or assistance paying for food (26.5%); and health services, such as mental health, dental, and healthcare resources (13%).

PHIWM is also fostering collaborations with other resource and referral networks in the region and across the state, including Mass211, Look4Help, CommunityHelp.net, and massthrive.org.

Several area organizations representing healthcare, housing, nutrition, behavioral health, and early education are among those on the 413Cares advisory committee, including Baystate Health, Behavioral Health Network, Care Alliance of Western Massachusetts, Caring Health Center, Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, Greater Springfield Senior Services Inc., Human Service Forum, ServiceNet, Springfield Central Library, Springfield Office of Housing, Square One, Sunshine Village, Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness, and WestMass ElderCare Inc.