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County funding sought for 211 call center

Getting funding for a proposed 211 one-stop call center was the purpose of a meeting with community leaders and the Lawrence County Commission.

About a month ago United Way Executive Director Laura Gilliam met with representatives from a variety of social agencies to explain the concept of the call center.

On Tuesday she came to the commission’s work session to solicit funding for the center for its second and third years of operation. The first year will be covered by a state grant.

“If we have the funding in place for the next two years, we can execute an agreement with the call center and move forward,” Gilliam told the commissioners.

Joining Gilliam were Doug Korstanje, director of marketing and community relations at St. Mary’s Medical Center; Bob Smith, president of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce; and Mike Boster, director of the county’s emergency management.

A 211 center is basically an informational and referral service where people can call a single phone number to get answers to questions about the social agencies in the county and what services they provide.

There are 56 counties in Ohio with a 211 system that operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and offers answers from trained staff. The closest counties to Lawrence with a system are Jackson, Adams and Athens counties.

A start-up grant of $40,000 from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services will cover costs for the first year. That money will be available until September.

St. Mary’s, the Chamber and United Way have each committed $3,000 for the next two years, leaving $23,000 needed for the next two years.

“This is Lawrence County’s opportunity to make a difference,” Smith told the commissioners.

Funding must be secured before September when the initial grant will expire.

“We will definitely talk about this,” Commission President Les Boggs said.