Recently, my team and I had a chance to visit the 2-1-1 call center that serves Alachua, Bradford, Dixie, Gilchrist, Levy and Union Counties. It was a remarkable operation - state-of-the-art technology, large digital GIS mapping screens and live weather feeds complete with a team of specially-trained around-the-clock operators taking calls from all over North Central Florida from people who are struggling and need help. The 2-1-1 operators answer every call with the one mission in mind: connect the caller with resources and the information they need to make a change for the better. The service is available 24-hours and is 100% free to use. Last year, more than 20,000 residents in our region used 2-1-1 to get information about child care, food and housing, caring for an elderly parent, mental health referrals and 24-hour crisis counseling.
Back in 1997 when United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta became the first United Way affiliate to introduce and manage 2-1-1, many were unfamiliar with the service. Today, all 50 states in addition to Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., have a 2-1-1 service and likely, a local United Way managing it. The system's most powerful feature is that ultimately it helps people get to the root causes that may prevent their crisis from reoccurring. But, like all data-driven call centers, 2-1-1 is only as effective as the information provided to it. If you are a provider and are not currently listed on the 2-1-1 database (here), call us at 352-331-2800. We also offer a unique texting service that is simple to use and like calling 2-1-1, absolutely free! To use it, just text your zip code to 989-211 (txt211).