News : United Way: 211 Emergency Line Now Available Throughout County
Schuylkill, PA, USA, Oct 12, 2015 -- People can now call 211 to be connected with 190 health and human service agencies in Schuylkill County.
The Schuylkill United Way officially announced last week that the 211 call system is now available. It is the first formal information service for the county.
"This is something that is very exciting to us," Kelly K. Malone, Schuylkill United Way executive director, said Friday.
Designed by the Federal Communications Commission, the 211 system is a free, confidential, non-emergency line to connect people with health and human service agencies. Pennsylvania is one of the last states to have a 211 call system in place.
The United Way of Pennsylvania has led the statewide PA211 initiative to get the system online throughout Pennsylvania. However, it has been the responsibility of local United Way organizations to compile their own database with information on health and human services available in their counties. It actually went online in Schuylkill County in August, Malone said, but there were some things that needed to be worked out before it was officially announced.
"The amount of work that this has taken the United Way to accomplish the database has been above and beyond what we usually do," Malone said.
The statewide service is divided into regions. Schuylkill County is in PA East Region 5, where all calls are handled by the Lancaster Information Center, or LINC, in Lancaster. The operator taking the calls has access to all the databases and can direct an individual to a specific agency in the caller’s county.
"The reason we feel it was most important to do this work and populate the database is because it is going to help those in the community who need the assistance," Malone said.
"It helps our partner agencies because number one, it takes calls away from them, but it is also one place they can go to see what is available from our partner agencies in the community," Malone said. "It is a win/win situation; 211 is a very good tool for those who are in need."
LINC was started by the United Way of Lancaster County and has provided information and referrals to a broad range of services for 35 years, according to the nonprofit’s website. The information and referral AIRS-certified staff are bilingual in English and Spanish.
LINC became a regional call center for PA211 in 2011 and currently serves residents in Berks, Lancaster, Lehigh and Northampton counties. The service is not yet fully available in Carbon and Lebanon counties.
Malone said there will be other community partners collaborating with the Schuylkill United Way to fund the program going forward.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Tuesday, October 13, 2015