Saturday, February 11th is PA 2-1-1 Day. This is a day to celebrate all of the life-changing ways United Way’s 2-1-1 helpline services the residents of Pennsylvania and encourage more to utilize the service available to them.
2-1-1 is the free, confidential, 24-hour information and referral service that connects 85 percent of Pennsylvanians with health and human services available to help. In Butler County, more than 11,000 people turned to 2-1-1 for help last year. Residents can also text their zip code to 898211 to be connected to help.
“People reach out to 2-1-1 to find information on basic needs, like heating or utility assistance, eldercare, or to find the closest food bank,” said Kierston Hobaugh, Executive Director of United Way of Butler County. “But they also call for everyday information like where to take their child for developmental screening, how to locate job training, or how to schedule free tax filing support through local services.”
In 2016, the top five reasons people contacted 2-1-1 were to be connected with resources which included rent payment assistance, electric assistance, tax preparation assistance, gas service payment assistance, and food pantry access. 2-1-1 information and referral specialists are trained to listen, assess the situation, ask the appropriate questions, and refer the caller directly to the human services that will comprehensively address their needs. The 2-1-1 specialist explains how to access those services, availing a translation service for over 170 different languages, if needed.
United Way of Butler County has been providing information and referral for decades. In 2011, we became a part of the national 2-1-1 program which was launched by United Way in Atlanta over 20 years ago. The user-friendly, three-digit 2-1-1 number now serves more than 283 million Americans—more than 90% of the population—in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.
Here are just two examples of lives touched locally by 2-1-1:
• A single mother and primary caregiver for her disabled brother called 2-1-1 due to having her electric shut off. She applied for LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program) and CRISIS (a federal grant that is awarded to income-eligible customers who are either without utility service or have received a 10-day shut-off notice) and was found to be $17 over the income threshold for assistance through these programs. She did have some money to put toward restoring her electric service, as she works as a home health aide. 2-1-1 was able to connect her with local resources to assist with restoration of her electric service.
• A client called needing assistance in obtaining a fuel delivery. Her daughter, 4-year-old granddaughter, and adult son all live with her. She was found to be over the income threshold for LIHEAP and CRISIS, as she works full time. She did have a credit at the fuel company from LIHEAP and CRISIS last season, so she was connected to local resources and referred to HARP (Housing Assistance Reform Plan). She was encouraged to schedule an appointment with the housing authority before receiving assistance, which she did, and received assistance with receiving fuel.
United Ways have been long-standing supporters and the national leaders of the 2-1-1 movement in Partnership with AIRS (Alliance of Information and Referral Services). As the largest private funder of the 2-1-1 network in Pennsylvania, United Ways continue to strengthen and support 2-1-1 as another way to build stronger communities and create opportunities for all. The Butler County Commissioners will recognize 2-1-1 in Butler County with a Proclamation on Wednesday, February 15, 2017 at 10AM at the public meeting. UPMC Health Plan and Peoples TWP will also be recognized through this Proclamation as key sponsors for 2-1-1 service in Butler County.