Every year on February 11 (2/11), we honor the work of 2-1-1 as a community resource available to the public's needs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year. Whether you're searching for heating assistance, affordable housing, tax support, or finding a free or low cost healthcare provider, United Way's trained 2-1-1 specialists are available to help. In light of 211 Day, we took a moment to compile an overview of these resources if you're not familiar and talk with a few of our Asheville 2-1-1 specialists about the most pressing local/regional recent needs.
What is NC 2-1-1 and how does it operate in Western North Carolina?
“It takes six months or more to become fully trained to handle the type of calls that come in to our center--from domestic violence to violent crime, rape, and homelessness to then switch gears to help someone simply looking for a phone number or needing help with their taxes,” shares the Director of NC 2-1-1’s Asheville Call Center, Marla Browne. “Almost all of our call center specialists have a four year degree in social science and go through further training, continuing education and accreditation to be able to take these calls.”
“We can easily share information or resources yet we know how to handle when there’s something more to ask. We’re trained to hear and handle those difficult situations our callers are facing,” shared Asheville’s 2-1-1’s Lead Asheville Call Center specialist Toni Goethals, one of 14 specialists in the organization. Our training is some of the best I’ve ever gone through and it’s ongoing. In fact we’re coming up on our accreditation again, and that’s quite a feat.” We attend community meetings across western North Carolina to share that with people too, and make sure others are aware that we’re trained professionals available to support them.”
Much like 911 is designated for emergencies, 2-1-1 is a free confidential health and human service line provided by United Way of North Carolina to offer support to community members across all 100 counties. When a caller dials in, a trained specialist answers, ready to help find a solution 24 hours/day, 7 days/week and 365 days/year. A live specialist, not an answering service or automated messaging center, always answers with access to a database of more than 19,000 resources available to meet their needs. Those resources include food pantries, homeless shelters, utility and rent assistance funds, health clinics, prescription assistance programs, counseling and substance abuse services, child care resources, senior resources, resources for persons with disabilities, and more.
In 2017, there were over 114,466 calls handled by NC 2-1-1 and 126,716 requests from residents for assistance and resources.
North Carolina has two 2-1-1 call centers, one in Asheville and one in Durham. The Asheville center serves sixteen western North Carolina counties. Both are available by phone or by visiting NC211.org. The top needs for 2017 included housing, food assistance, healthcare,legal assistance, community medical clinics and assessment for psychiatric services. Browne shares that housing-related needs are a large portion of calls coming in across western North Carolina as well as healthcare assistance as North Carolina did not expand Medicaid service this past year. “We’re also hearing a lot of needs around heating and people who are looking for fuel, wood and general electric assistance,” shares Lead Specialist Ana Baranda. “Eblen is a huge resource because they handle low income energy assistance, aka: LIEAP.” In fact, WLOS recently shared news regarding Eblen Charities public heating assistance program.
The Asheville 2-1-1 center has been a part of the Asheville community since the 70s, partnering with the city, local nonprofits and other social service providers in the area to serve the community’s needs. “We’re a companion piece to the service providers in our community,” shares Browne. In fact, 2-1-1 also assists with the after hours calls of other social service nonprofits in the area, including Helpmate, Our Voice, and Buncombe County’s Children and Adult Protective Services..
Understanding the Issues for our Community, Using the 2-1-1 Database
Many providers find 2-1-1 a worthy companion piece to their work. Where most service providers are specialists within their field, they oftentimes find 2-1-1 helpful in gaining more knowledge of services that might be available to their clients. Service providers have used 2-1-1counts.org’s data to identify service gaps in the community and better understand how to meet the needs in their area. Because 2-1-1 talks with people from all walks of life and tracks comprehensive services, it is uniquely positioned to see the gaps between what people need and the resources available to help. The invaluable data can be leveraged as a tool for planning, asset mapping, needs assessment, etc.
For more information regarding NC 2-1-1 as well as localized resources, please give us a call at (828) 252-4357 or visit us online at http://www.unitedwayabc.org/2-1-1