Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Access social services: Call 211

By William A. Weathers
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Beginning today, residents in Greater Cincinnati have a simple, easy-to- remember telephone number - 211 - to call for information and assistance on health, social and human services matters.

The new United Way 211, The Care Connection program, which provides access to services such as family counseling, help for a child or aging parent, information on health concerns and employment issues, is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"It's an easy to remember number," Jennifer Bieger, United Way 211 manager, said Monday. "Plus it makes (the process) simpler for individuals."

"When a caller dials 211, they are connected with a specialist who can connect them to thousands of programs and hundreds of local agencies to address their needs," said Evelyn Laux, United Way vice-president. "Currently, we have a referral data base of about 850 social services agencies and this number is increasing."

There are literally thousands of telephone numbers for health and human services agencies and programs in Greater Cincinnati that can make it confusing and frustrating for someone seeking assistance, Bieger said. The 211 number will "eliminate the guesswork," she said.

"It's free. It's confidential," Bieger said.

Individuals interested in volunteering their services can also call 211 and be matched up with volunteer opportunities, Bieger said.

The 211 service is available to residents in Hamilton, Clermont and Brown counties in Ohio and Boone, Campbell, Kenton and Grant counties in Kentucky.

"United Way 211 is making it easier for those seeking help or wanting to volunteer to connect to services and referrals," said James E. Rogers, chairman and CEO of Cinergy. Cinergy is providing $600,000 for United Way 211 over the next three years through its philanthropic foundation.

"Although callers' requests to get or give help have been answered through the United Way's 24-hour, seven-day-a-week Helpline for 26 years, the new 211 number is easier to remember and quicker to dial," said William J. Davis, chairman of the United Way 211 advisory board.

The United Way 211 service is not yet available via cell phones, and some business and pay phones may not be able to access 211, Bieger said. People in those situations can call the regular United Way hotline - 513-721-7900 in Hamilton County, 1-800-233-HELP in Brown County and 513-705-1166 in Middletown. The hearing impaired can access the 211 services by calling 513-762-7250 TDD.

Callers needing emergency police, fire or medical services should continue to call 911, Bieger said.

E-mail bweathers@enquirer.com

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