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211 call center enters next phase

SOUTH POINT — Representatives from the United Way of Greater Cleveland are in the process of gathering data for a proposed 211 call center for Lawrence County, the next step in making the referral system a reality.

At a meeting Friday at the Greater Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce, Laura Gilliam, director of the United Way of the River Cities, gave an update on the creation of the call center.

“We cut a really good deal (with the Cleveland agency),” Gilliam said.

“They are well-established and their 211 is excellent.”

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.

Now the Cleveland UW will contact agencies in Lawrence County to come up with a specialized database seeking from those agencies information about their hours, their purpose and contact personnel.

“It will be from food pantries to fire stations to caregiver support groups,” Gilliam said. “Anything and everything that someone might need help with. It will be the most likely resources for help.”

Once the database is set up, then those answering the calls can provide that information to those in need.

“And the more contact information they find out from the individual (calling) and the more information about the services, the better they can make that connection,” she said. “To try to match as best as they can and say ‘Here are your options.’”

Gilliam is anticipating the data-gathering will take four to five weeks. After which, she wants to have a kickoff of the center with a large informational advertising campaign.

“We want to blitz it as much as we can,” she said. “We want to shift the mindset from calling 911 to find out where you vote to calling 211.”