Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Who You Gonna Call?

... when you don't know who to call.

Imagine this: Last night you discovered a baggie full of something you're pretty sure is an illegal drug in your son's room. After a confrontation and ugly argument, he finally admits he has a problem. You decide on a Rehabilitation Program, but which ones are available in your area? What about support options afterwards?

Never happen to you? Okay.

Imagine this: Your aging mother, who lives alone in another state, suffers a mild stroke. After she is released from the hospital, she wants to return to her own home to live, but that just isn't practical since she shouldn't be left alone any longer. Sadly, you also don't have room for her in your own home. Nursing homes are a last option, in your opinion. Perhaps there's a way she can remain in her existing home, with help... but who do you call for information?

Never happen to you? Okay.

Imagine this: Since you reached retirement age, you find yourself bored to tears. You still have a lot of heart and energy to give, and you consider volunteering with a local charitable organization... but which one? There are so many! Is there anyone you can call to help you narrow down the possibilities?

Right now, the answer to these questions is both "yes" and "no" -- depending on where you live.

The United Way of America, in conjunction with the Alliance for Information and Referral Systems (AIRS) has teamed up to begin implementing a new system for community information sharing called the 2-1-1 System. Like the name suggests, areas covered by this system (see the 2-1-1 website for current coverage areas) will have centralized calling centers which can be reached 24-hours a day simply by dialing "2-1-1" on any telephone. Your call will be answered by a trained volunteer who has a comprehensive database at their disposal, listing organizations and resources available in your area that can render assistance with your particular problem. Looking for training, affordable housing options, food banks, support groups or an opportunity to volunteer? You can be connected to all of this, and more, with one simple (and easy to remember) phone number.

As of this posting, Erie, Lucas, Ottawa and Wood counties in Ohio are covered, with more being added as time and resources permit. You can help get the 2-1-1 system going in your county by contacting your state representative or congressman. See the 2-1-1 website for an easy to sign petition if you'd like to add your voice to ours.

You've heard me speak about the power of information before, so it should come as no surprise that I'm a big supporter of this program. We need a national 2-1-1 system, and the sooner the better. I hope we can count on your support as well.

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