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February 21, 2014

2-1-1 info line use growing in Cass County

Voicemail, online database added to information network.

When someone is in need of assistance and doesn’t know how to get help, 2-1-1 representatives are available to answer questions.

2-1-1 is an information and referral service that can give community resource information on different topics ranging from education, food, shelter and legal aid to disaster relief, early childhood development screening, employment, tax prep and various others.

Cheryl Graham, 2-1-1 United Way of Howard County director, spoke on the subject at Thursday’s Cass County Resource Network meeting.

2-1-1 is also a way to cut down time spent trying to get answers.

On average, if someone doesn’t know where to call, it takes eight calls to get them where they need to go, Graham said. Each of the eight calls averages about 15 minutes.

“2-1-1 allows the person to get immediate help without the extra calls,” Graham said.

2-1-1/United Way of Howard County provides service to Cass, Tipton, Miami and Howard counties.

“It can be a relief for people to tell their story to someone without being judged,” Graham said of people who call the service.

2-1-1 refers people to other organizations that can help. The answers callers receive are specific to each individual and most calls are followed-up. 2-1-1 can weed out services people might not be eligible for, which saves even more time.

Graham also talked about a brand new database available at www.referweb.net/uwhc. The service allows residents of Cass, Tipton, Miami, Clinton, and Howard counties to enter information and find resources available.

Anyone can search the database. Users will be asked to enter a zip code and then can choose to search for a category, keyword or agency, depending on the need. The database will also show the user how far away the service is.

“We’re creating a real-time picture of what is going on in Cass County,” Graham said.

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