211 phone system celebrates first anniversary | NevadaAppeal.com

211 phone system celebrates first anniversary

Nevada’s 211 phone service has helped nearly 60,000 people in the year since it started operations.

The 211 system is a help line in which callers are directed to appropriate agencies for Health and Human Services.

Mary Liveratti, of HHS, said it has been used to help people get services from food banks to shelters, utility and rent assistance, health insurance, drug and alcohol counseling and support for seniors and the disabled.

The coalition operating the system includes the Crisis Call Center in Carson City, HELP of Southern Nevada, the state and United Way.

Karen Barsell, CEO of United Way of Northern Nevada, said the service is now available in nearly all of Nevada, operating 8 a.m.-midnight weekdays and 8 a.m.-4 p.m. on weekends.

“The bulk of the calls coming in right now are around financial issues,” said Barsell. “People trying to pay their rent, in some cases their mortgage. A lot of the calls are coming from hard-working people who are trying to make ends meet.”

It was created by an executive order signed by Gov. Kenny Guinn in February 2006 under legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Debbie Smith of Sparks and Sen. Dina Titus of Las Vegas.

Smith said she got the idea after talking with a group of grandparents raising their grandchildren. They told her what they really needed was help finding resources to provide them with support.

One purpose of the 211 call system is to divert less urgent calls away from the overloaded 911 call system, which is designed to handle police, fire and medical emergencies.

Barsell said the system handles many other types of calls, including from people seeking employment, job training, those seeking support programs for seniors and those with disabilities. She said other calls are for those seeking help for substance abuse or mental health issues.

But her favorite calls, she said, are from those who want to volunteer to help with the 211 service.

She said unlike some states, Nevada has been helped out by excellent support from the phone companies.

“They have really given their all to make this work,” she said, adding that other states have not been as fortunate in that area.

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.