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2-1-1 Info line available

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The Ellis County Press

ELLIS COUNTY - Need to find information, or a telephone number to get information, or referrals for local health and human service needs?

Residents can call 2-1-1, a free confidential line designed to assist callers find where to obtain assistance with utility bill assistance, child care, job training or a host of other health and human service needs.

Community Council Executive Director Martha Blaine and director of 2-1-1 for North Central Texas, said, '2-1-1 reduces confusion, frustration, and stress when people are often already overburdened by troubles and don't know how to get help. By dialing 2-1-1, access to information people need is coordinated and streamlined.'

2-1-1 was launched Oct. 31, 2002 and has seen an increase in call volume in the recent months.

'The data from the call center will help service organizations plan services based on what people call for,' said Blaine.

'It's a more accurate assessment

of the community's needs and will result in stronger, healthier residents.'

As the public learns of 2-1-1, Blaine expected the 700-800 daily calls the center receives to increase, especially due to the state of the economy and unemployment situation.

The Community Council of Greater Dallas houses the center within their offices in downtown Dallas with a full-time staff of 10 answering phones from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

After 7 p.m., callers are greeted by an interactive voice response that gives repetitive information such as when immunizations are due for children.

Blaine said she expects the service to begin functioning 24 hours a day starting in June.

2-1-1 serves citizens in Ellis, Navarro, Dallas, Hunt, Rockwall, Collin, Denton and Kaufman Counties.

It is a free call allowing citizens to obtain assistance and support services such as food, transportation, health care, criminal justice, legal services, counseling centers, financial assistance, crisis intervention, services for the disabled, employment and education, just to name a few.

Personnel are specifically trained with many already passing a national level test. Many North Central Texas call center workers have previous work experience in the health and human services fields.

English and Spanish specialists are on hand to answer all questions. Other translators are also available.

There are 14 call centers currently working throughout Texas with another 11 are expected to be up and running by the end of 2003.

Each call center is responsible for its own funding.

According to Blaine, the centers get funding from a variety of sources, such as the local United Way chapter and donations.

The state is responsible for funding the hook-up of all the centers throughout the state.

Some businesses require workers to access an outside line to dial 2-1-1.

Residents are urged to dial 9-1-1 in the event of an emergency and dial 4-1-1 when needing information concerning the City of Dallas services offered to citizens.

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