*Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect the total number of calls to date.
MIAMI COUNTY — The United Way of Miami County (UWMC) launched its 2-1-1 service last September to connect those in need with health and human services around the clock — and the service is catching on.
UWMC CEO Sean Ford said the hotline experienced the most calls in March since its launch and the word continues to spread about the 2-1-1 service.
“We’ve been getting good feedback from people that are very excited about this program,” Ford said.
Ford shared how local school secretaries are using the 2-1-1 platform to connect student families to services ranging from financial needs, housing, food, and shelter assistance as well as mental and physical health assistance. Ford said more efforts to reach the entire county —outside of Tipp City, Troy, and Piqua, are being made, using local schools and their students and staff to help spread the word about 2-1-1 in the community.
Ford said data shows a “huge leap” in services from February to March since its launch six months ago. Ford estimates approximately 892 calls have been fielded by the 2-1-1 hotline since September.
According to data provided by UWMC, there were 107 calls in February and 161 in March. From those calls, 196 “needs were identified” in February and 308 “needs were identified” in March. In March, the majority of the needs were related to medical information (25), electric assistance (18), emergency shelter (18), or pandemic related (21), homeless (10), and rent assistance (13).
The data provided also pinpoints which agencies were able to help assist those seeking services. For example, in March, the Piqua Compassion Network assisted five callers with electric service payments, four callers with gas services payments and six callers with water service payments.
Many of the needs identified centered around payment assistance. For example, Tipp City’s New Path provided rent payment assistance to six callers, the Salvation Army and St. Vincent De Paul helped six people each. Tipp Monroe Community Services provided five homeless with hotel vouchers in March.
Food assistance referrals were also high on the needs list with dispatchers connecting 34 callers to food pantries around Miami County last month.
The 2-1-1 service has led to a drop in calls to the United Way of Miami County offices from people seeking assistance. Since the 2-1-1 service launched is 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year, those in need can get immediate attention to address their situation, Ford said.
“We’d always point them on to the next place to go and now they have one place to call for their needs,” Ford said. “Emergencies don’t stop at 5 or 6 o’clock at night and pick back up at 8 or 9 in the morning. There are emergencies that happen between the hours when non-profits are closed.”
Ford said the first two years of the service were provided by a $50,000 grant from the Miami County Commissioners to establish the hotline in Miami County.
Ford said the funds from the commissioners helped build and launch the county’s own 2-1-1 website and marketing to help spread the word of how 2-1-1 helps Miami County residents in need get connected to state, regional or local agencies. Ford said UWMC is currently securing funding to continue the service that costs $15,000 per year once the initial two years are established.
Find out more information on Miami County 211 by going to www.miamicounty211.org. For assistance, dial 2-1-1 or (855) 944-3372.