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211 line offers access to social services

211
Jun. 12, 2013 @ 07:24 AM

SOUTH POINT, Ohio -- Thanks to United Way of the River Cities, Lawrence County joined more than 50 other Ohio counties Tuesday in offering the free 211 referral system that can link up residents with agencies that provide food pantry and emergency housing services, among others.

The system provides Lawrence County residents with a centralized directory of services available on a 24-hour-per-day, seven-days-per-week basis, said Laura Gilliam, executive director of United Way of the River Cities. The agency has served Lawrence County residents since the 1980s. In areas without the 211 system, it can take more than a dozen phone calls to get linked up with services, officials said.

"This is a valuable tool and resource for the county," Gilliam said.

West Virginia has had the centralized referral system for years while about 59 of 88 Ohio counties have the 211 system. Boyd County doesn't have the referral system.

"It will have a great impact on Lawrence County," Gilliam said. The county now has a centralized directory of resources that can link individuals to health and human service information and referral. People also can use 211 to find out where the closest food pantry is located and the hours it will be open, she said.

United Way got a $30,000 grant to set up the system and pay for its operation for a year, Gilliam said. "We have funding for the first year. The agency also is seeking funds to keep the system in operation.

"We need $30,000 per year."

United Way and the Greater Lawrence County Area Chamber of Commerce will provide some funding for next year, she said. Other agencies and business will be contacted for donations.

"911 looks at 211 as a great addition to Lawrence County," said Lonnie Best, the county's 911 director. The new system will take stress and calls from the 911 system which dispatches police, fire and ambulance services to county residents. "We're glad they're here."

United Way of the River Cities contracted with United Way of Greater Cleveland to handle the 211 calls. The system also can be accessed online at 211lawrence.org.

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