United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, in collaboration with North Penn United Way and the United Ways of Bucks County, Chester County, and Southern Chester County today launched 2-1-1, a free, easy-to-remember phone number that connects residents of the five-county southeastern Pennsylvania region with important health and human services in local communities.
“Navigating the nonprofit landscape and a host of government services can be overwhelming if you don’t know where to start, so unfortunately many go without the services they need,” says Jill Michal, United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey president and CEO. “2-1-1 is the place to start.”
Callers reach trained specialists who can help identify their needs and connect them to local human service organizations that specialize in meeting critical basic needs (such as food and housing); physical and mental health resources; employment supports; assistance for older adults and people with disabilities; and support for children, youth and families.
Help is available seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (TTY and language services are available in more than 170 languages and dialects), and 24 hours a day at www.211sepa.org. Individuals, families and communities can connect with 2-1-1 for help with everyday needs and in crisis situations.
“2-1-1 often demonstrates its value during times of crisis. For example, in the weeks after Hurricane Sandy, NJ 2-1-1 helped coordinate response efforts and served as an invaluable lifeline to thousands of New Jersey residents in need of evacuation and temporary shelter assistance, help accessing emergency food and water and dealing with utility outages,” says Michal.
“But 2-1-1 can also play a critical role in non-emergency times. With one phone number, callers gain free, confidential access to the resources of thousands of nonprofit programs and services that can help improve their quality of life — from quality early childcare centers, to job training programs or in-home health supports for an aging parent,” adds Ann O’Brien Schmieg, senior vice president, Community Impact, United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey.
This launch is part of a broader goal to bring 2-1-1 services to every resident of the Commonwealth. One of seven regions within the statewide Pennsylvania 2-1-1 system, 2-1-1 in southeastern Pennsylvania will also help local health and human services providers to plan for the future.
“Data collected through the local 2-1-1 system can be used to identify prevalent or emerging community needs throughout the region to facilitate informed response, assess the community or region’s ability to address large-scale issues and identify gaps in services to help meet critical or growing needs,” says Michal. “In addition, based on data collected from calls, nonprofit agencies and local government can anticipate demand for services and mobilize resources to meet changing needs.”