SPRINGFIELD — Local legislators presented a $200,000 check from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts (PHIWM) to support its 413Cares initiative, which connects people with the critical resources they need in an online portal.
The check presentation was attended by state Sen. Adam Gomez, state Reps. Michael Finn and Carlos Gonzalez, and an aide representing state Sen. John Velis, along with representatives from organizations partnering with the Public Health Institute on the 413Cares initiative.
The funding was secured for 413Cares in the FY 2024 state budget as the result of a legislative earmark sponsored by Gomez and Finn. Funding was secured through the Department of Public Health.
“413Cares has truly modernized and expanded how residents access resources here in Western Massachusetts,” Finn said. “Their easy-to-use and central location provides information about countless different programs, dramatically simplifying a once-daunting task for those seeking help. I am proud to have joined my colleagues to support this invaluable asset for our region in the FY 24 budget.”
Gomez added that “Western Mass. is a large and diverse region in the Commonwealth with residents who face equally diverse issues. I look forward to the continual support of 413Cares’ implementation of an integrative approach to community services.”
Launched in 2019 by PHIWM with the support of Baystate Health, 413Cares is an online community resource database for Western Mass. The platform has reached more than 100,000 searches and more than 111,000 interactions with programs in the region. Top searches were for housing, food resources, and health-related resources.
PHIWM has received funding from the Commonwealth in the past two legislative budgeting cycles to support 413Cares, which is managed by PHIWM. Resources from the state have been used to collect data during and after the pandemic and have also been utilized to improve and update the 413Cares.org website and raise awareness of the resource in the region.
Due to promoting awareness of the portal and building partnerships made possible by the state funding, in 2023 413Cares saw a 234% increase in website traffic over the previous year and a sharp increase in referrals through the website to community-based organizations. Feedback from users on the platform indicated that they found the services they need 71% of the time.
This year, the state resources are funding three new regional partners to provide outreach, promotion, and support of the platform: Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, Quaboag Hills Community Coalition, and Hilltown Community Health Center. This is in addition to existing regional partner Community Action Pioneer Valley, funded by Baystate Health.
“We’re very fortunate in Western Mass. to have an array of agencies that provide essential resources in times of need,” state Sen. Jake Oliveira said. “But those searching for that support can’t always access it. I’m grateful to have a partner in 413Cares working to address that missed connection and empowering individuals and families to get the assistance they need.”