211 promoted as way to dispense social services information

Published 9:35 am Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Creating a one-stop call center for anyone needing information about social services is the purpose behind establishing a 211 system for Lawrence County.

United Way Executive Director Laura Gilliam met with representatives from a variety of social agencies Tuesday at the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce to explain the concept and find funding for it.

“We had about 15 people come from all different agencies to learn more about establishing a 211,” Chamber director Bob Smith said. “It is an information and referral system where people can call one number to get answers to all of their questions. So many times you have to go around searching every which way to get answers to questions.”

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There are 56 counties in Ohio with a 211 system allowing 87 percent of all Ohioans to have access. The system operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week and offers answers from trained staff.

“It will take a huge load off 911,” Smith said. “Many of the phone calls that go to 911 are actually 211 phones calls. People call 911 for anything but it is supposed to be for emergencies.”

Start up cost for the system is expected to be around $40,000, which will be picked up by the United Way.

“After the first year, it would be up to Lawrence County for funding,” Smith said.

“We will go to government agencies, businesses, different social agencies that would have the funding,” Smith said. “Foundations might have money that would be used for this.”