February 11, 2008

2-1-1 : A good thing

Today is February 11th, or 2/11, so United Way makes a big deal out of the 2-1-1 number on this day. As well they should.

Like 911 for emergency response, 411 for information, and 511 for traffic information in many communities, 211 is an easy to remember phone number that can connect people in need with community services that can help. It's a national referral service that can be used by virtually anyone with a need. It's not just for runaway teens or for abused spouses escaping bad homes. It can also be used by grown children seeking elder care for their ailing parents in another state. Or by anyone seeking tax filing assistance. Or by anyone who has a need and wants to find help, whether it's economic, health related, or anything else. And it can be used by people who want to volunteer but don't know where to go or how to do it.

The 211 system now covers 75% of the country, and it relies on private, civil, and public funds to operate. That is, 211 requires county and state approval as well as approval by the local utilities commission, and it also requires a lot of money to set up and operate. I recommend you get to know what this is about and, when you write your congresscritters, ask them to support 211 legislation and funding.

211 is not just a neat idea. When Hurricane Katrina took down the 911 system in parts of Louisiana, the 211 system filled the gap. 211 was instrumental in getting help to thousands of people in Florida after hurricanes hit there the previous year. And 211 is still helping thousands of San Diegans recover from the devastating wild fires of last year. These are just a few examples, and since 211 is 24 x 7 x 365, it helps people every day even when there isn't a disaster happening.

You can go to the 211 web site for more information.


Anonymous said...

I didn't know about this, so thanks for the info!

WriterKat said...

Great post. I use 211 a lot for working with homeless and mentally ill patients. I didn't know it was used for other things as you mentioned.

Just for fun & random info, 711 is also a service - for the hearing impaired. You can call it to assist in translation to/from.