In The News…
Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County – If you’re in a crisis or just need some information there is a phone number that can assist you. Help lines have been around for years, but the 10-digit number was hard to remember. Now, you only need to dial 3 numbers to get some answers.
You may remember the jingle, but now you don’t have to. All you need know are 3 simple numbers, 211. “211 is a lot of everything that Help Line has been doing for the last 40 years. It’s an information referral service, so if people have questions about, like right now, heating assistance, I ran out of fuel, my furnace broke where can I go to get my that fixed, things like that,” says PA 211 Director Tom Foley. It’s a nation wide help line, but Foley says it serves most of Pennsylvania now as well. He explains “our main job is to provide information referral to point people in the right direction so they know who to contact, when they can contact them, and exactly what they need before contacting somebody.”
Foley and his co-workers can assist you with a number of questions relating to basic human needs; physical and mental health resources; employment supports; support for older americans and persons with disabilities; and children, youth and families. “During the flood of 2011 our calls volume just skyrocketed. We did almost about 60,000 calls in a month,” he recalls. PA 211 operator Keith Trumbower adds “I’ve always said it’s kind of like triage. You have to sit them and prioritize everything because anyone that calls has a legitimate question.”
It’s free, 24/7, and no question is too big or too small. Trumbower says “easiest calls are the ones where you have given the number so many times you know it off the top of your head.” Operators say most of the time the person on the other end of the phone is looking for seasonal advice, but whatever your question or crisis may be, they will try to help.
“All you have to do is remember 3 numbers, 2-1-1. It’s just like 9-1-1 just with non-emergency things,” says Foley.
You are encouraged to call the help line at anytime, but the one thing they want you to remember is that they are not 4-1-1, so don’t call looking for your neighbors phone number.