Operators will direct calls to a wide range of social services and
information, such as a suicide prevention hotline and answering
questions on who can help with a runaway child, housing, aging,
issues relating to youth or rent assistance, to name only a few.
The 211 call center operators will disseminate information broken
down by the nearest locations within 10, 25 and then up to 50 miles
of the caller's area code.
United Way of Logan County is the sponsoring funding source to
bring this service to the area.
Karen Zangerle, executive director of the PATH Crisis Center in
Bloomington, presented information on the program when
representatives of service agencies met on Dec. 5 at Jefferson
Street Christian Church.
PATH, which stands for Providing Access To Help, will be the
supporting agency for providing information in Logan County. The
PATH Crisis Center is an advanced phone service allowing them to
make a seamless transition from county to county.
To meet the 211 provider criteria, the service is required to
have 24/7 availability, an active and current website, and access to
an interpreter. Operators have access to interpreters speaking 160
The service is mandated to be able to make "warm transfers,"
i.e., people talking to people, connecting callers to the proper
agencies. This means that the caller may not necessarily be put on
hold while connecting to the needed resource. The 211 operator is
able to stay on the line with the caller while connecting to the
service provider, linking the caller to the provider, and then the
operator may back out of the conversation, returning to the next
Staff members are required to go through an 80-hour training
course and complete four separate tests scoring 90 percent or
better. When contacting 211, callers are required to press "O" in
order to screen out computer-generated phantom calls. A center in
Iowa received over 100,000 phantom calls in one year.
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The 211 service is also a first response provider. The
service was vital in providing information after Hurricane
Katrina in August 2005. Operators answered questions such as
housing inquiries and where to call to get a FEMA trailer. After
Hurricane Sandy, the service averaged 40,000 calls per day for
the first three days. Between 200 and 250 operators were brought
The service now has the ability to work remotely for hire and has
assisted in sharing information with callers about resources
available to victims of wildfires in California.
Much of the time-consuming work for this service in Logan County
has been gathering information from agencies and coordinating with
the local phone companies.
In our area there are a number of phone service providers, and
the information service must be made compatible with landlines,
digital, cell and independent phone companies. Less than 30 percent
of homes still have a traditional landline. The 211 service will be
available to nearly every phone.
Participating agencies offering any type of human service are
asked to supply information. One of the FAQs is, how do I get in?
The agency needs to present who is eligible and who is not, what
they specialize in, and if there are income guidelines.
Service-providing agencies wanting information on how to register
should contact Marla Blair, executive director of Logan County
United Way, at 217-735-4499. The registration process is rather
quick, and a thorough survey helps to present what the agency has to
While the service in Logan County is not yet operational, the
tentative target date is Feb. 11, or 2-11. This is based on all the
components coming together in a timely fashion. Nearly 14 counties
were added in 2013, and 24 counties are projected to be added in
[By ROY LOGAN]