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Thumbs up: Referral system will help Ohio residents

Jun. 22, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

The high rates of poverty, health problems and substance abuse in our region translate into a lot of needs.

In fact, the tough economic times of recent years have meant even more residents looking for assistance. But it is not always clear where to turn for help.

In Lawrence County, Ohio, that is now as simple as "211."

Callers can dial that number for a round-the-clock centralized directory of services available. That could mean "safety net" assistance such as a food pantry or emergency housing services. But the system also is set up to provide referrals on health care, financial assistance, addiction treatment, legal services, mental health issues and other problems. The referral service is available online as well at www.211lawrence.org.

The Federal Communications Commission several years ago assigned the 211 number for help with health and human services, and today millions of people have access to the systems across the country.

The 211 systems also have an indirect benefit. Local 911 operations currently field many of these calls for help, and the new system provides some relief for emergency dispatchers, allowing them to focus on police, fire and ambulance services.

About 50 counties in Ohio now have the 211 service. The Lawrence County effort was made possible through a partnership with the United Way of the River Cities, which obtained a $30,000 grant to help get the project running through its first year. In the coming months organizers will begin seeking donations for ongoing operations.

This will be a good cause to support.



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