There was a time I needed the help of Utah 2-1-1, but I didn’t know what it was. So when life threw me a curveball and I didn’t know where to go, it was one of the more stressful times in my life. On top of my problems, I spent a lot of energy driving all over town and making phone calls trying to get the help I needed, when it could have been as simple as picking up the phone to dial 2-1-1.
So much information surrounds us all the time, we kind of have to pick and choose what we let in. You might pass by car dealership billboards every day, but it isn’t until you are looking for a new car that you really notice them. This week we will recognize National 2-1-1 Day, and my hope is to cut though all of the noise that is constantly around us and show people what 2-1-1 can do, so if that day comes when you or someone you know needs help, you’ll already know exactly who to call.
2-1-1 is the dialing code for Information and Referral services. What that means is that if you pick up a phone and dial 2-1-1, a friendly information specialist will answer who can help you find the service that would be able to help you in whatever situation you face. The 2-1-1 database houses information for every government and nonprofit organization in the state, enabling us to make referrals for everything from a grief support group to a local credit counseling service, from a tobacco cessation program to a domestic violence shelter.
Recently, a disabled veteran called 2-1-1. He had been medically discharged from the service with a 100 percent disability rating. Five of his fellow soldiers who had returned home had taken their own lives, and hewas fearing for his own future. He called 2-1-1 to find out about legal clinics in the Ogden area. The specialist who answered the call realized that the man not only needed services but also a compassionate ear that would listen. She transferred him to a coworker—also a veteran. The two opened up about their shared struggle, and the 2-1-1 representative was able to personally connect his comrade with a partner agency that specializes in urgent issues. 2-1-1 provided a place to turn when there didn’t seem to be other options.
In addition to general information and referral, 2-1-1 offers a specialized branch of information and referral just for parents called Help Me Grow, featuring Child Development specialists. Another service, Take Care Utah, provides Health Care Specialists who can help with insurance enrollment or answer questions about health plans. 2-1-1 schedules most of the free VITA tax appointments for the state, takes calls for the Special Needs Registry, is ready and capable of taking non life-threatening information calls in the aftermath of a disaster or epidemic.
2-1-1 is available 24/7 and is completely free and confidential, a service provided jointly by United Way of Northern Utah, United Way of Salt Lake, and United Way of Utah County. A translator service enables us to help in any language. 2-1-1 is a number we all should know! So remember 2-1-1 to get connected, and to get answers! Call 2-1-1 24/7 (or 888-826-9790), text your zip code to 898-211, email email@example.com, or search or chat online at 211ut.org to get the resources you need.