Ashe County will soon have another place to turn to when seeking help.
United Way of North Carolina will soon unveil their new 2-1-1 system in Ashe County, “The one number to call when you don’t know who to call.”
2-1-1 is an easy number to remember that connects callers to help when they need it.The system connects callers with comprehensive information about nearly every available health and human service that exists in Ashe County - and across the region.
The calls, and the help they provide, are free and confidential to callers. Calls are answered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In addition, call specialists use a translation service that can help callers in over 400 languages. Call specialists must also pass a comprehensive test of their knowledge in order to be certified by their national professional organization.
Lynda Mcdaniel, United Way’s 2-1-1 Local Coordinator, told county commissioners last fall that Ashe residents could gain acess to the program for just $2,500 a year in county funding.
Users of the system would be directed to a call center in Durham where trained personnel talk to the caller about their situation, and then connect them with a list of agencies that might be able to help them solve their problem.
McDaniel told commissioners that, “No county has ever dropped 2-1-1 once they see the utility their citizens get from the service,” said McDaniel. “It says a lot about the kind of value the service provides.”
The budget $2,500 a year would allow county residents the ability to call the service a total of 75 times a month without any overage charges. Over 75 calls, and the county would be assessed a penalty, however.
McDaniel didn’t see that as a likely scenario in Ashe County. “Surry County has never gone over the allotted 75 calls and it’s a far larger county than Ashe,” said McDaniel. “Catawba County, nearly 5 times larger than Ashe County, has rarely gone over the 75 call limit.”
McDaniel mentioned a massive emergency as the only time the county may possibly go over 75 calls, a scenario where 2-1-1 would be more valuable than ever, as 2-1-1 operators could spread the word about the best ways to handle the crisis.
McDaniel said partnering with Alleghany County is also a possibility. Ashe County would front the majority of the cost to initiate the program, and Alleghany would pay for an overages, offering Ashe insurance the system would never be overloaded.
“Either way, I think it would be a great deal for both counties,” said McDaniel.
In an effort to get the system up and running as quickly as possible, McDaniel told commissioners the service would utilize Ashe Memorial Hospitals database of services to build United Way’s 2-1-1 system. McDaniel said the move would allow the service to become operations sooner, with a more complete list of available services, than United Way could put together on their own in the same amount of time.
Callers calling from a mobile phone will need to dial 1-888-892-1162.
There are thousands of I&R service agencies operated by non-profit and government organizations throughout the United States. These I&R services answer millions of calls annually. I&R services are responsible for connecting callers with opportunities to get and give help through more than 1.6 million health and human service providers, government agencies, and community-based service organizations in the United States.
I&R agencies maintain comprehensive databases of resources including federal, state, and local government agencies, private non-profit agencies, faith and community based organizations, schools, libraries and neighborhood and civic organizations. The comprehensive I&R agency often maintains this data for the specialized centers in the community and makes it available on the Internet, in other electronic forms, and through paper directories and handbooks.
I&R specialists are skilled professionals. They assess callers’ needs and help the caller determine their options and the best course of action. Additionally, I&R specialists are trained to determine whether a caller may be eligible for other programs, to intervene in crisis situations, and to advocate on behalf of the caller, as needed.
Ashe residents will also be able to use nc211.org, the 2-1-1 systems website, to track down information on topics as varied as tax preparation, after school programs, child care referrals, legal assistance, utility payment assistance, and weatherization programs.
According to United Way’s website, nc211.org, over 30,000 non-profits serve the residents of North Carolina. Finding the most effective answer to your questions can be a problem. United Way hopes 2-1-1 is the solution.
“The first step is knowing who to call. 9-1-1 is for emergencies, 4-1-1 is for directory assistance, and 2-1-1 is for finding community health resources,” reads the United Way’s website.
2-1-1 currently serves 55 counties across North Carolina, including nearby Watauga, Avery, Caldwell, and Surry counties but, at present, 2-1-1 is not available in Ashe, Alleghany, or Wilkes counties, and provides coverage for 80 percent of North Carolina residents.