Vermont Business Magazine February 11th has been designated National 2-1-1 Day, in recognition of the free, confidential, easy-to-remember phone number that serves 95% of America's population and connects some 16 million Americans a year to critical information, resources, and services. Since its inception in 2005, Vermont 2-1-1 responded to over 450,000 calls/texts/emails providing Vermonters with 401,151 referrals to health and human services throughout the state and beyond.
“Many Vermonters called in distress to find assistance for meeting their most basic needs like heating and utility assistance, emergency housing, or to find the closest supplemental food resource. But many also contacted Vermont 2-1-1 looking for specific information about resources that might be available for very specific and personal everyday needs that arose, like where to take their child for developmental screening information, for locating potential job trainings, or for eligibility guidelines for free tax filing support.” said MaryEllen Mendl, Executive Director of the United Ways of Vermont, which is home for the Vermont 2-1-1 program.
Vermont 2-1-1 takes the "pulse" of Vermont communities in real time. It has actually proven to be the social barometer that state agencies and local communities can use to gauge their needs and allocate their resources.
Use of the 2-1-1 system for state responses to emergencies and crises over the years has proven its worth and the present budget shortfall has created yet another important opportunity to further efforts toward system-wide coordination and cost efficiencies, and should result in our State departments relying even more on streamlining solutions, like the Vermont 2-1-1 program.
“Without our 2-1-1 service, callers often have to make a number of redirected calls to different numbers before finding the services they need.” Mendl said. “Contacting 2-1-1 not only cuts through the red tape to save service providers time and money, but also helps Vermonters connect with the resources they’re looking for more quickly and with less frustration.”
So what happens with 2-1-1 calls? When Vermonters dial 2-1-1, the calls are routed to the 2-1-1 Contact Center in Essex Junction. They are answered by trained Information and Referral Specialists, who discern the needs, then search 2-1-1’s comprehensive database of relevant human services in order to make referrals. The 2-1-1specialists explain how to access those services to the callers. In the case of workers who have recently been laid off or whose hours have been reduced, for example, the 2-1-1 specialists may share information about unemployment benefits, job search options, eligibility for 3 SquaresVT, food pantries, mortgage or rent payment assistance, utility assistance, counseling and other available resources. As highly trained listeners, the
2-1-1 specialists will determine the specific needs of each individual caller and then make appropriate referrals.
“Our partnerships and collaborations with state and local government help connect people in-need with existing services and programs and over the years our special initiatives with partners took us above and beyond traditional information and referral and enabled us to make help happen.”
The Vermont 2-1-1 website has been revised so that community members can now more easily navigate the resource database.
The United Ways have been long-standing supporters and the national leader of the 2-1-1 movement in Partnership with AIRS (Alliance of Information and Referral Services). As the largest private funder of the 2-1-1 network, United Ways continue to strengthen and support 2-1-1 as yet another way to build stronger communities and create opportunities for all.
Tours of the Vermont 2-1-1 Contact Center are available upon request.
Source: Essex Junction, VT - United Ways of Vermont www.vermont211.org