I have been fortunate that all of my life, I have managed to meet my daily needs without help. I have never gone hungry; I have never been cold; and I have never been without health care insurance. The reality is, however, that anything can happen to anyone. So, if woke up one morning and didnít know where to turn, what would I do? The answer is that I would call 2-1-1, a crisis hotline for lifeís emergencies.
Though 2-1-1 has been around in varying stages for more than 10 years, many people are still unaware of its existence. The program, launched in 1997 by the United Way of Greater Atlanta as a first point of contact for health and human services needs and volunteer opportunities, has grown significantly since. Today, 2-1-1 reaches all or part of 48 states, with local sites being developed and added to the national network each day. The hotline is managed in part by United Ways across the country and various local organizations and agencies. Specialists handled 10 million calls in 2007 alone.
Just like when you reach a trained professional at the 9-1-1 hotline, the folks you connect with at 2-1-1 are certified specialists who can refer you to a one or more government or community programs that can offer assistance. When you call 2-1-1, you are connected with folks locally who will put you in touch with help that is readily available right in your area. 2-1-1 calls are always free, and call centers are manned 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by multi-lingual specialists.
The types of issues handled at 2-1-1 include basic human needs, like food, clothing, and housing. You can also get help for medical and mental health needs, like health insurance programs, support groups, counseling, drug and alcohol rehab, Medicaid and Medicare, and maternal healthcare needs. A person who has lost a job can call for employment support, like unemployment benefits, financial assistance, and job training. Our older population and those with disabilities can get help for home health care needs, adult day care, Meals on Wheels, transportation and other needs. Those with children can find referrals for childcare, Head Start or after school programs, family resource help, and protective services.
You donít have to be poor or homeless to make this call. Many people may not need help with food or housing, but may need help with an abusive situation, or need support to cope with an addicted family member.
Basically, if you are faced with a life-changing situation and donít know what to do, just call 2-1-1, and your journey to getting the help you need will begin. If you have access to a computer, you can also go to 211.org to access and search the incredibly comprehensive 2-1-1 database in your area. You can chat live on-line with a certified 2-1-1 specialist.
Finally, it seems that people who want to make donations or volunteer in their community often donít know where to start either. 2-1-1 meets these needs as well. In addition to helping those in need, 2-1-1 operators will provide insight and referrals to appropriate agencies and organizations for those interested in volunteering.
Get help, give help. Itís easy. Humanity has always been about helping our fellow man. Thanks to 2-1-1, you donít have to wait for the help to come to you Ėhelp is just a phone call away.
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