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February 20, 2008 > Community information line

Community information line

Submitted By Maria Stokes

Finding help in the Bay Area is easier than ever before. On Monday, Feb. 11, United Way of the Bay Area (UWBA), United Way Silicon Valley, Contra Costa Crisis Center and Eden I&R announced the region-wide launch of 2-1-1 Bay Area phone service.

By simply dialing 2-1-1, Bay Area residents can reach a caring, trained specialist, who will match their needs with local community services, such as flu-shot information, senior services, employment assistance, summer camps, and so much more. Available 24-hours a day, in more than 150 languages, 2-1-1 is also an integral component of the Bay Area's disaster-response infrastructure.

Nationally, 2-1-1 serves 75 percent of the American public. In the Bay Area,
2-1-1 was introduced in San Francisco County in early 2006, in Santa Clara County in early 2007, and in Alameda County in mid 2007. February's announcement celebrates the region-wide launch of the 2-1-1 Bay Area network, marked by the expansion of 2-1-1 service throughout Contra Costa, Napa, Marin and Solano Counties. Plans to bring 2-1-1 to Sonoma and San Mateo Counties in 2008 are currently underway.

Over the last three decades, five organizations have provided Information & Referral (I&R) service in the Bay Area: Eden I&R for Alameda County; Contra Costa Crisis Center; United Way Silicon Valley for Santa Clara County; the Volunteer Center of Sonoma County; and UWBA for Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo and Solano Counties. These designated 2-1-1 providers are building on their long history to build an integrated 2-1-1 Bay Area system that ensures the most effective and efficient delivery of community information. Collectively, they focus on streamlining data sharing and collection, utilizing common protocols for calls, developing joint disaster- action plans, and implementing mutually supportive marketing and public- education strategies.

Anne Wilson, chief executive officer of UWBA, said, "Finding help in the Bay Area is now easier than ever before: by simply dialing 2-1-1, residents can quickly connect with local community services that meet their needs." She noted that without 2-1-1, people often make up to 10 phone calls before finding the correct service, while many give up before getting the help they need.

Eden I&R Executive Director Barbara Bernstein said, "Alameda County is proud to be a model 2-1-1 service area that is financially supported by all 14 cities, as well as the county and the private sector. This leveraged public-private partnership is based on the knowledge that 2-1-1 is a vital public communication vehicle through which individuals, families and whole communities gain access to comprehensive and up-to-date health, housing and human service information."

Contra Costa Crisis Center Executive Director John Bateson said, "2-1-1 is simple, easy-to-remember, toll-free, and 24-7. Both on a daily basis and in times of disaster, 2-1-1 is the one number people need to know to get help and information."

What's the difference between 2-1-1, 3-1-1, 9-1-1, etc.?

2-1-1: Community services
3-1-1: Non-emergency government services
4-1-1: Directory assistance
5-1-1: Traffic and transit
6-1-1: AT&T repair service
7-1-1: California relay for hearing impaired
8-1-1: "Call before you dig" for locating underground utility lines
9-1-1: Life-threatening emergency services

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