United Way of North Central Florida Launches Text Messaging Service to Expand 2-1-1 Assistance for Local Residents in Need.
United Way of North Central Florida recently launched a text messaging service, 898-211 (TXT211), providing another quick and convenient way for north central Florida residents to access United Way 2-1-1 assistance for housing, utilities, affordable child/elder care, mental health issues and other critical needs. Alachua and the five surrounding county residents can communicate directly with 2-1-1 information and referral specialists by simply texting their zip code to 898-211 (TXT211). Within minutes, United Way 2-1-1 will respond to the initial message. The service is available in all languages.
Much like 9-1-1 or 4-1-1, 2-1-1 is a free, multi-lingual, 24-hour resource to help people find assistance with health and human service needs, from rent and food to elder care and disaster relief. United Way 2-1-1 also includes a crisis intervention hotline providing immediate help for people who are dealing with suicidal thoughts, depression, drug addiction, family violence or any situation that overwhelms their ability to cope.
“The text message feature makes it even easier for people to reach out for help when they are in need,” said Debbie Mason, President & CEO of United Way of North Central Florida. “Being able to send a free text message for assistance makes it fast and convenient for residents when they are going through a very stressful time in their life.”
Over the past year, 2-1-1 calls have increased 144 percent and now average 258 calls per week. Utility, housing and food assistance continue to rank as the top three requests for assistance. With critical needs still growing, calls for assistance remain alarmingly high. In 2011, more than 8,331 residents called for help, with more than half needing assistance for the first time. And the trends remain the same this year.
United Way 2-1-1 is staffed by more than 40 information and referral specialists, all of whom have completed at least 80-plus hours of
accredited training in crisis de-escalation, risk assessment and suicide prevention and intervention. Six full-time senior crisis specialists are also on staff, all of whom have extensive backgrounds or advanced degrees in social work and related fields.
As of August 2012, 2-1-1 serves more than 270 million Americans (more than 90 percent of the population) covering all 50 states, Puerto
Rico and the District of Columbia (including 41 states with 90% coverage.) The remaining states are in various stages of planning and
United Way of North Central Florida is a trusted solution-builder that leads and convenes funders, partners, donors and volunteers to create long-term solutions in education, income and health. Key initiatives address educational success for children, financial stability for families and health for all ages.