The following is from United Way of North Carolina in celebration of National 2-1-1 Awareness day today, February 11, 2013.
I know who to call when I need help. In an emergency, I dial 9-1-1. When I need the number to my favorite Thai restaurant, I try 4-1-1. When I’m navigating the challenges in life that fall somewhere in between, I can call 2-1-1.
2-1-1 is help when you need it most. This Feb. 11 (2-11), we celebrate National 2-1-1 Awareness Day and the vital role this service plays in our communities. Across the nation, 90 percent of residents have access to 2-1-1, which fields more than 16 million calls each year.
2-1-1 is a free community service information line that links people to health and human services in our community 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The service is confidential, and calls are answered by professional referral specialists who assist callers in prioritizing their needs and exploring their options of services that can help.
Anyone can call 2-1-1, regardless of the language they speak, and receive information on thousands of services, including food, housing, utilities, childcare services, financial education, health care, job training, counseling, mental health and substance abuse, senior services, volunteer opportunities and many others.
More than 87 percent of North Carolinians live in the 2-1-1 service area and can connect to a network of more than 18,000 resources by phone. That area is growing, and we add new counties to our system every year. Already, every resident can access information about resources in their area online through the comprehensive database at www.nc211.org .
Later this week, North Carolina’s 2-1-1 will roll out a new marketing campaign to increase awareness of the information line as “help when you need it most.” I hope you will be on the lookout for our new commercial, billboards and other materials and help us spread the word about the importance of 2-1-1.
2-1-1 was certainly important to Brent. Although Brent enjoys his work in retail, he doesn’t make a lot of money and had to discontinue his insurance to afford his rent and utilities. Following back surgery, Brent made a full recovery physically, but financially he fell behind in his payments.
When he called 2-1-1, he only needed about $100 more to be able to pay his rent without damaging his credit. Mindy, a referral specialist, connected him to a resource he was unfamiliar with that stepped in to help, and Brent was able to pay his rent. He was so happy he wrote Mindy an e-mail to let her know everything worked out OK and to thank her for her support.
That’s the moment when “help when you need it most” becomes “hope when you need it most.” I’m gladd 2-1-1 is there for Brent. And for me. And for you.