PICKENS COUNTY — Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018 is celebrated as 2-1-1 Day across the country. Why? It is a day of recognition of the valuable service that connects individuals to information and support — in short? It’s a better way to find help.
So, what exactly is 2-1-1?
Well, according to the Federal Communications Commission(FCC), the agency reserved the 2-1-1 dialing code for community information and referral services in July of 2000.
The FCC intended the 2-1-1 code as an easy-to-remember and universally recognizable number that would “enable a critical connection between individuals and families in need and the appropriate community-based organizations and government agencies,” they state.
Currently, active 2-1-1 systems cover all or part of 50 states.
As of February 2015, 2-1-1 serves over 291 million Americans — 93 percent of the entire population — covering portions of all 50 states including 41 states with 90 percent or greater coverage. Washington DC and Puerto Rico also have 2-1-1 services.
Locally, the number is there when people need help with taxes, cleanup services after a disaster, crisis counseling, shelter, help with basic needs or any number support services, stated a spokesperson for United Way of Pickens County.
How does it work? Easy.
Actually, 2-1-1 works a bit like calling 9-1-1. Calls to 2-1-1 are routed by the local telephone company to a local or regional calling center. The 2-1-1 center’s referral specialists receive requests from callers, access databases of resources available from private and public health and human service agencies, match the callers’ needs to available resources and link or refer them directly to an agency or organization that can help — like The United Way.
“In our state, S.C. 2-1-1 partners with government agencies and non-profit organizations to coordinate the ease and efficiency of connecting people with the information they need to find help,” they said. “During tax season, S.C. residents can find a local Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site to get their taxes prepared free. In 16 counties, including Pickens, individuals can call 2-1-1 to schedule an appointment or to find a VITA site.”
In 2017, S.C. 2-1-1 handled 1.7 million calls for healthcare, food and community resources, including 11,706 VITA appointments.
“We all know that the way people consume information has shifted with advancements in technology,” they said. “From news to information to entertainment, there is an array of options for seeking and receiving content anywhere, anytime and anyplace. However, those who are seeking help find that the traditional online search doesn’t offer the best results.”
Here in the Upstate, through SC 2-1-1, United Way is using technology to break the barriers individuals face in finding help by leveraging the collective power of partners and technological solutions to advance systems change and deliver results.
“Simply put, we are offering a better way to find help,” they said.
In addition to being able to call the three digit 2-1-1 telephone number 24 hours, seven days per week, individuals can search for support online at SC211.org or use the SC 2-1-1 mobile app available for Android and Apple Devices.
You can also use the online chat feature on the www.SC211.org website during regular business hours.
It is free to access and free to use.
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.