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Frequently Asked Questions


What is 2-1-1?

  • 2-1-1 is an easy to remember telephone number that connects callers to information about critical health and human services available in their community.

  • 2-1-1 reaches approximately 270 million people (90% of the total U.S. population) covering all 50 states (including 41 states with 90%+ coverage), the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Yet, millions of Americans still need to be connected.

  • America needs 2-1-1 to be accessible nationwide. As the number of organizations providing specialized services is on the rise, people find it frustrating and confusing to access community services. 2-1-1 provides a one-stop service for vital information.

  • While services that are offered through 2-1-1 vary from community to community, 2-1-1 provides callers with information about and referrals to human services for every day needs and in times of crisis. For example, 2-1-1 can offer access to the following types of services:

    • Basic Human Needs Resource: food banks, clothing, shelters, rent assistance, 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, children’s health insurance programs.

    • Employment Support: unemployment benefits, financial assistance, job training, transportation assistance, 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.

    • Support for Children, Youth and Families: Quality childcare, Success by 6, after school programs, Head Start, family resource centers, summer camps and recreation programs, mentoring, tutoring, protective services.

    • Volunteer opportunities and donations.

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How is United Way involved in 2-1-1?

  • 2-1-1 was first launched by United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta in 1997 and now reaches into 47 states and the District of Columbia.

  • United Way supports 2-1-1 as the first number to call to connect with health and human services and volunteer opportunities.

  • United Way Worldwide has declared February 11th as National 2-1-1 Day.

  • United Ways have a long-standing tradition of commitment to funding information and referral (I&R) services in their respective communities.

  • 2-1-1 and its goal to contribute vital information that benefits individuals and communities mirrors the mission of the 1,400 United Ways nationwide to better people’s lives.

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How is 2-1-1 funded?

  • 2-1-1 centers have various funding sources -- local United Ways, community foundations, Federal, state and local government funds.

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    Cost Benefit Analysis

    United Way Worldwide commissioned a study to assess the expected costs and anticipated benefits of a nationwide 2-1-1 system. Completed in December, the University of Texas Ray Marshall Center for the Study of Human Resources concluded the following:

    • When an individual seeks information or referral services for which they have little or no prior knowledge or experience, dialing 2-1-1 is much simpler than other options.

    • General information systems, such as 4-1-1, provide information that is too general in nature to be very useful and may charge a fee.

    • As a one-stop shop for social services, 2-1-1 would ultimately save Americans millions of dollars in taxpayer money.

    • A national service of this type is estimated to provide $1.1 billion in net value to society over the next 10 years.

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