Last updated: July 25. 2013 9:02AM - 187 Views

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Ryan Scott Ottney

PDT Staff Writer

The United Way of Scioto and Adams Counties is preparing to launch its 2-1-1 service, offering a free telephone and online referral of health and human service information and local community events. The service will be available 24-hours a day, everyday, beginning June 3.

“Whether its a land-line or a cellphone, people will be able to dial 2-1-1 and someone will pick up and you give them your information and they’ll be able to get you the help that you need,” said Mary Ann Miars-Peercy, executive director of the United Way in Scioto and Adams Counties.

Callers can anonymously dial 2-1-1 with questions like, “What programs does the cancer center have?” and “Where are the AA meetings at in Scioto County?”

The new service began with the Ohio United Way secured a grant for the local agency to pursue 2-1-1 service. The grant pays for the first year of service, but after that the local agency will be responsible to fund the service itself. After receiving the grant, they had to apply for 2-1-1 program and OhioAIRS. Their application was endorsed locally by the Scioto County Commissioners, city of Portsmouth, Family and Children First Council, the ADAMHS Board, Emergency Management Agency, Shawnee Mental Health, local 9-1-1 and more.

Now approved, callers soon will be able to dial 2-1-1 for information about rental assistance, foodbanks, utility assistance, local government offices and more.

“We are taking it to another step as well. It’s also community events that are going on. Shawnee State, when they have move-in day for the students, will be able to have that posted, or people can call the 2-1-1 service and they’ll be able to give the date and the time and the location. It’s kind of a win-win for all us,” Miars-Peercy said.

For those individuals who are shy or nervous about dialing 2-1-1 to ask for help, the same information will also be available online and accessible through the United Way website.

“In the average it’s 10 to 14 calls for one person to make. You may start off with ‘I can’t pay my rent’ to Agency-A. Once you start talking to a client, there’s more to it than needing rent. They may need food, they may need utilities assistance, they may need clothing. Agency-A may be only able to take care of one need, so you have to be able to give them a separate list. By the time they get through all this they’ve already been through 10 or 14 calls. Sometimes that vicious cycle, they’re frustrated. And we’re frustrated because we aren’t able to get them the help that they need. This is why we think it’s very important to consolidate everything,” Miars-Peercy said.

It not only helps the individual find what they need quickly and easily, but it also frees up those services and agencies from getting tied up with those 10 to 14 calls every time.

The calls are always answered by a live-person, and the database and calendar is updated locally by the United Way.

For more information about United Way and its upcoming 2-1-1 service, visit the United Way of Scioto and Adams counties online at www.uwsciotocounty.org.

Ryan Scott Ottney may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 287, or rottney@civitasmedia.com. For breaking news, follow Ryan on Twitter @PDTwriter.

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