Most people would agree that the American health care system is fragmented. Our social and community service networks are disorganized as well. But there is a service that works to put people in need in touch with social, financial, and medical services that can give them the assistance they are looking for. This service is called 2-1-1.
United Way is a major provider and coordinator of human services in the United States. According to the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago website:
"United Way does what no single organization alone can do. We bring together leaders from government, corporations, human service providers and the community to develop innovative solutions to local issues. We leverage funding for the network of programs that — together — can make a meaningful, measurable difference."
United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta started 2-1-1 in 1997. It is now available in 47 states as well as the District of Columbia, and is funded by United Way, the Federal and various local governments, and community foundations. There is bipartisan legislation encouraging nationwide 2-1-1 coverage (S.211/H.R.211). 2-1-1 is a partnership between United Way and AIRS, the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems.
What exactly is 2-1-1? It is a phone number that connects you with community and human services assistance in your local area. It varies by location, but calling or visiting the website at http://211us.org can connect you with:
• Basic Human Needs Resources: food banks, clothing, shelters, rent assistance, and utility assistance.
• Physical and Mental Health Resources: medical information lines, crisis intervention services, support groups, counseling, drug and alcohol intervention, rehabilitation, health insurance programs, Medicaid and Medicare, maternal health, and children’s health insurance programs.
• Employment Support: unemployment benefits, financial assistance, job training, transportation assistance, and education programs.
• Support for Older Americans and Persons with Disabilities: home health care, adult day care, congregate meals, Meals on Wheels, respite care, transportation, and homemaker services.