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Editorial: Learning role of 211 important like 911


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Most people know the numbers 911. That’s what you dial in case of an emergency.

More people should know the numbers 211. That’s what Bartholomew County residents can call to get help with food, clothing and money.

The county’s 211 information hotline, sponsored by United Way of Bartholomew County, received a 10 percent increase in calls for service in 2013. However, the office believes it’s just scratching the surface and not enough people are aware of the assistance the 211 helpline provides.

That’s unfortunate because help with clothing, money and food are three of the top four unmet needs in Bartholomew County.

Those who do call 211 often are in a crisis situation, such as being homeless or suicidal. Callers express needs for household goods, health services, housing and shelter, food, income support and assistance, legal services and clothing.

After receiving a call, 211 operators refer callers to the appropriate agencies for assistance. Those connections are to food pantries, homeless shelters, job centers and transit systems, for example.

The 211 office listed among its top goals for this year to do more outreach to let people know the helpline exists. That’s because there’s a substantial need locally. Last year, 9,995 Bartholomew County residents called for help. Nearly 70 percent of the 211 callers — almost 7,000 — said they earned less than $13,000 annually.

Bartholomew County residents can help with outreach. How?

For starters, by memorizing the number and spreading the word. That might not seem like much, but for someone who needs clothing, food or shelter, and doesn’t know where to turn for help, it’s the first step for them getting back on their feet.

About the 211 office

The Bartholomew County 211 service has two full-time and fouar part-time operators and a work-study operator, as well as volunteers.

The staff answer phones from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. An Indianapolis office takes all other phone calls after hours around the clock. Just dial 211.

Indiana has a 211 service available through various call centers in different regions. Bartholomew County has had 211 service since the 1970s.

Contact the United Way 211 call center at 812-376-6666 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. People in need of services after hours can dial 211. You also can request services online at referweb.net/uwbc or uwbarthco.org.

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