CHAMPAIGN — Counseling, food, employment, the right care for aging mom and dad ... people need all kinds of help and don't necessarily know where to find it close to home.
Now there's one number to call for some answers: 2-1-1.
The 2-1-1 service — established as an easy-to-remember number to connect people with health and human services in their area — is now up and running in Champaign County.
The United Way of Champaign County partnered with the county Mental Health Board & county Developmental Disabilities Board to make the 2-1-1 line available in the area, and they will be sharing the annual cost expected to run from $25,000 to $30,000, said United Way President and CEO Sue Grey.
The 2-1-1 line is a free service for users, and available 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, according to the United Way.
Don't call 2-1-1 if you need emergency medical help.
But call it for a referral to an agency that can help if you are, say, about to be evicted, Grey said.
The 2-1-1 line can also connect people with help when they're facing such situations as weather emergencies or domestic violence. It can help with such needs as elder care, developmental disability services for a child, family counseling, employment and food, according to the United Way.
The calls are being handled by a call center in Bloomington-Normal, Grey said.
The United Way has asked all land line and wireless carriers to provide access to 2-1-1 in the area. But some may be slow to implement the 2-1-1 code. A 2-1-1 specialist can always be reached by dialing 1-800-570-7284.
Cellphone users dialing 2-1-1 from within Champaign County will connect even if their area code isn't local, according to United Way. Any cellphone users unable to connect can also dial the toll-free number for help. For organizations with in-house PBX telephone systems, programming modifications may need to be made for easy 2-1-1 access, according to the United Way.
The 2-1-1 service, now covering 90.6 percent of the U.S., is being established by United Ways and information and referral agencies. These 2-1-1 services answered more than 15.8 million calls in 2012, according to the United Way.