2012 Press Release: United Way Launches 2-1-1 Information & Referral Service

For Immediate Release: November 20, 2012

SPRINGFIELD – United Way announced its official launch of the 2-1-1 telephone information and referral service. This toll-free number is a resource individuals can use to get information about the community’s network of health and human services and community programs. Trained specialists will respond to callers’ inquiries 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Multi-lingual and hearing impaired callers can be accomodated.

“United Way’s 2-1-1 will make information on a wide variety of local support services much more accessible,” said United Way President, John P. Kelker. “Whether it’s information for locating a health clinic, finding child care programs, or getting rent assistance, 2-1-1 can be a go-to resource for individuals and families.”

In addition, 2-1-1 has proven to be an essential service for communities devastated by man-made or natural disasters. The toll-free number can serve as a government repository of vital information. For example, during Hurricane Sandy, the 2-1-1 call centers in New Jersey directed people to shelters, food pantries, government resources, and, if needed, a mental health counselor to listen and provide comfort. United Way hopes to work with the local municipalities to enhance their communications in non-emergency and crisis situations.

“The Community Relations Office receives over 100 calls a day from Springfield residents looking for support from local agencies. Now, we can provide them with an invaluable resource, 2-1-1,” said Sandy Robinson, Director of the Office of Community Relations, City of Springfield.

In launching 2-1-1, United Way of Central Illinois is joining over 86% of the country in making this resource line available. United Way Worldwide and its local affiliates began their work with 2-1-1 in 1998. The FCC approved 2-1-1 in 2000 and since that time, local United Ways have embraced it. Today, in Illinois, a little more than 20% of the state has 2-1-1 coverage. It already exists in the Quad Cities, McLean County, Metro East (eastern suburbs of St. Louis), and most recently, in Rockford, Illinois, where it has been very well-received. In fact, in the first two months since Rockford’s launch on August 23rd, they’ve received 1,400 calls from people needing support services including housing assistance, domestic violence programs, utility assistance, and suicide support.

“In the first year, we anticipate between five and six thousand callers to use the 2-1-1 service,
with that number increasing each year,” said Karen Zangerle, Executive Director of PATH Crisis
Center in Bloomington, IL. PATH operates the 2-1-1 Call Center and creates the resource database. Presently, 107 agencies are represented in the database, making it the single, most comprehensive resource for health and human service information. Over the next few months, the database will continue to grow as agencies provide data about their programs.

There are two additional ways individuals can access 2-1-1 information. They can visit the website, www.findhelp211.org or use the toll-free number, 888-865-9903.