by Dr. Roger Hartley
February 11 is National 2-1-1 day and people across the nation are bringing attention to this fast, free and confidential service available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. NC 2-1-1 is an easy-to-remember telephone number that connects you with referrals to health, human and social services. I take great pride in serving as the chair of the advisory committee of the NC 2-1-1 Asheville Center and applaud the high standards set by our referral specialists, our impressive director and the United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County.
The NC 2-1-1 Asheville Center serves seven counties in our region and is often the first step for many of our neighbors searching for help for themselves, their families, or someone in need. Ten years ago, the Asheville center was the first North Carolina agency (and only fifteenth in the nation) to receive accreditation from the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS), signifying commitment to the highest standards and quality of service.
Recently, the center was awarded its third consecutive five-year accreditation. During the process, the NC 2-1-1 Asheville Center was recognized for three best practices that will be added to the AIRS I&R ToolKit for use by other information and referral services throughout the United States and Canada. The Asheville center is leading the way and setting the standard for excellence.
You probably know that when you dial 2-1-1, you’ll have access to information on a broad range of services – from food banks, suicide prevention, and financial literacy to child care, elder care, and health resources – but there’s much more to know about this community resource.
11 Things You Should Know about the NC 2-1-1 Asheville Center
- It’s available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and serves people who speak any language. You can call on holidays, at 2 a.m., during a snowstorm. Someone will always be there to take your call.
- More than 53,000 calls were handled by the NC 2-1-1 Asheville Center in 2013.
- You can get information about any health or human services need. 2-1-1 provides referrals to agencies that help meet basic needs, but it goes beyond that. Need to navigate the health insurance marketplace? Need counseling for your teen? Need to find legal services for an aging parent? Dial 2-1-1.
- Dialing 2-1-1 from any area phone will connect you with the Asheville center and people who know the area. You can also search online on your own at www.nc211.org. 2-1-1 can be used however people choose to connect to help. There’s even a 2-1-1 app for smartphones!
- 2-1-1 is available throughout North Carolina. The NC 2-1-1 Asheville Center covers seven percent of the counties in the state.
- 2-1-1 is completely free and completely confidential. There is no stigma attached.
- Most people call 14 different numbers before finding a needed service. Dialing 2-1-1 saves you 13 calls.
- When you call the NC 2-1-1 Asheville Center, you get a trained specialist – many of whom have advanced degrees and are Certified Information and Referral Specialists. Our specialists educate callers about the services they are being referred to so they are empowered to navigate systems and move toward self-sufficiency. When they are unsure a caller has the capacity to follow through, our specialists take extra time and follow up to ensure the need is addressed.
- You can call 2-1-1 from a landline or a cell phone. Kiosks that connect directly to 2-1-1 are located in the lobby of the United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County (50 South French Broad Avenue) and the Department of Health and Human Services (40 Coxe Avenue) in downtown Asheville.
- Service providers, city and county planners, and elected officials can all use 2-1-1 to understand the scope of needs in the community.
- There is a point in anyone’s life that we will need to call 2-1-1.
I’ve seen that 2-1-1 is a barometer of need in our community. I’ve seen that 2-1-1 has the power to transform individuals from all walks of life, ranging from the family that has just lost their income to the person who has substance abuse issues and does not know where to turn.
If you believe in this great connection to resources that everyone in our community can access please support the NC 2-1-1 Asheville Center though a donation by calling (828) 255-0696 or visit www.nc211.org. And, of course, tell everyone you know about it. Call 2-1-1 to be connected to our community public servants!
Dr. Roger E. Hartley serves as chair of the advisory board of 2-1-1 and serves on the Board of Directors of the United Way. He is a Professor and Director of the Master of Public Affairs program at Western Carolina University.