911 and 411 are standards in the emergency and information phone line business. Aid agencies in Monroe and Owen County hope that their relatively new 211 can become an industry standard as well.
The United Way of Monroe County and the Area 10 Agency on Aging hosted a media event, proclaiming February 11, 2011 as “211” Day to raise awareness about the information and referral helpline.
“For the human services community it all starts with a very simple call to a three digit number, 211,” said Area 10 Agency on Again Executive Director Kerry Conway. “A trained professional offers very highly personalized advice and information based on a very sophisticated database of available services.”
The agency responded to more than 5,000 calls in 2010 and made more than 10,000 referrals. Both the county commissioner, whose office used to field many of these calls before 211 was launched, and aid agencies consider these referrals critical during weather emergencies.
“We have been able to utilize 211 to get critical information out to the community,” said Bloomington American Red Cross Executive Director Sue Gulley. “Any callers to 211 would know, for instance, where there might be an emergency shelter.”
Conway says 211 acts as a one-stop shop for people looking for information about a wide variety of services. In the end, she says a community works more efficiently when information is more easily accessible.