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Clarion County Residents Can Now Dial 2-1-1 for Health and Human Services

Wednesday, September 19, 2018 @ 01:09 AM

Posted by Ron Wilshire

211 United WayCLARION, Pa. (EYT) – Clarion County officially celebrated the launch of 2-1-1 services on Tuesday afternoon.

(Pictured above: Clarion County Commissioners Ed Heasley and Wayne Brosius; State Representative Donna Oberlander; Clarion County United Way Executive Director Melissa Fulton; and Board President Erich Spessard.)

2-1-1 is a free, accessible, three-digit telephone number available to everyone for easy access to customized health, housing, and human services in one place.

Melissa Fulton, executive director of the United Way of Clarion County, championed the service for many years while many other counties adopted the services.  The United Way and Clarion County are splitting the costs of maintaining the database and operators needed for the service.

“Every hour of every day, someone in Clarion County is searching for services, substance abuse treatment, child care, or services for an aging parent,” said Fulton. “Simply by dialing 2-1-1, our trained information specialists can help by answering questions and connecting you with health and human service programs. Just as you would call 9-1-1 in an emergency, 2-1-1 is the equivalent three-digit phone number with information customized for our community.”

Fulton also thanked the support of Community Action of Clarion and Jefferson Counties and Stephanie Wilshire and the Clarion Area Agency for the donation of website information and database resources used by 2-1-1.

2-1-1 is also a statewide and national network that can provide information.  If a regional center is down or overwhelmed, a center at another location can take calls because they have access to the master database for Clarion County services.

“Getting 2-1-1 into Clarion County was not an easy task,” said Fulton. “We started knocking on doors and looking for community partners. For a long time, those doors were sort of slammed shut, some gentler than others. One door that was shut, but opened again when we had a talk with the Clarion County Commissioners who we really recognized as very valuable partners for us.”

Commissioner Ed Heasley echoed those comments.

“First, I want to thank Melissa Fulton from the United Way of Clarion County,” said Heasley. “She is the driving force that resulted in PA 2-1-1 program is available to the residents of Clarion County.”

“The cost of the program is $10,000.00 per year. The agreement Melissa arranged provides the United Way of Clarion County and Clarion County will share the expense equally.”

“PA 2-1-1 is part of the National 2-1-1 Call Centers that provides an easy-to-remember telephone number, chat, text, and a web service for finding non-emergency information and referrals for appropriate community services, health and human services and other local information, for residents in need of resources and services that can help them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”

Heasley also listed the following benefits of 2-1-1:

  • Providing referrals to multiple needs in one phone call;
  •  Improve the quality of life for many;
  • Relieve the Counties 911-Center from receiving non-emergency calls for human service needs;
  • Give agencies relief from receiving calls that do not align with the agency’s mission; and
  • Provide an opportunity to focus more in-depth on constituent’s need.

Commissioner Brosius, also a member of the United Way Board, said, “It’s good to see it come to fruition and I actually did a little test of 2-1-1 and decided to call myself and see what happened.”

“It seemed to be working very professionally and one of the other issues brought up is that we didn’t want to confuse 2-1-1 with 9-1-1. When I did call 2-1-1 and pretended to needed to get a flu shot, it said right up front that if this is an emergency please call 9-1-1. That’s the first thing you hear when you call that number.”

State Representative Donna Oberlander was aware of 2-1-1 because part of her district in Armstrong County was already covered by the service.

“I’m very excited to see this up and running.”

Fulton said that Oberlander’s office may also direct callers to use 2-1-1 if they have questions about human services.

Spessard, also Clarion County Public Defender, admitted when he first heard about 2-1-1, in many ways it seemed too good to be true.

“I have seen the statistics and outcomes, and 211 offers literally a one-stop shop.”

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