Mt. Vernon Register-News

May 22, 2014

United Way to launch 2-1-1 system

By RICK HAYES rick.hayes@register-news.com
The Register-News

---- — MT. VERNON — A service to connect individuals with local organizations that provide a wide range of services will soon be available in Jefferson and surrounding counties.

United Way of South Central Illinois will host an informational meeting at 1 p.m. Monday, June 23, at the United Methodist Children’s Home chapel to explain the 2-1-1 system.

“It’s a lot like 911 or 411, although it handles all non-emergency calls,” explained Rhonda Edmonson, executive director of United Way of South Central Illinois. “It helps alleviate the

bottleneck of getting people in touch with resources they need. The 2-1-1 system is an information referral line that connects people to human service organizations.”

For example, Edmonson said, in case of a natural disaster 2-1-1 would become the organization to handle the volunteers and resources for people who want to give, much like the Red Cross.

“We’ve seen 2-1-1 work in major disasters recently in Katrina and the Joplin, Mo., tornado. For people who want to give money or supplies, this 2-1-1 system will handle all of those types of calls,” Edmonson said.

The system came about as a result of legislation passed in 2010. Illinois is one of the last states to implement the system, although state officials began working on it several years ago. Pilot programs have been introduced in the St. Louis and Metro-East area, expanding to Peoria and northern Illinois.

“There will be about four or five call centers in the state. The call center in Bloomington has been a crisis center for the Bloomington area for more than 35 years,” Edmonson said. “They’re managing all the call centers and they will manage ours.”

As a result, it will be a huge savings for the local organization. Edmonson estimates it will cost anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 to pay for the 2-1-1 system locally.

“We hope other organizations taking advantage of the program will help us fund it,” she said, adding, “The program is only as good as the information you put into it.”

Information states United Way of South Central Illinois will service the areas of Jefferson, Marion, Washington and Wayne counties.

New provider forms are now available online on the organization’s website for those interested in being placed in the data system.

“That’s why the meeting on June 23 is important,” Edmonson stressed. “We want to bring together as many community organizations as possible to learn about the 2-1-1 system, how it will help them and the clients they serve. We’ll be taking information about the organizations and services they provide. The information they provide will go into the database at the call center.”

Edmonson said the system will not be available until all data for social services is obtained.