Are you aware of the 2-1-1 phone number, the most comprehensive source of information about local resources and services available? Just as you can call 911 in an emergency, you can call 2-1-1 for help in many areas, finding food sources, emergency shelter, housing options, rent and utilities assistance, locations for COVID-19 vaccinations, emergency information and disaster relief, and locating other resources near you.

During the fires here in Gila County there were more than a dozen calls to 2-1-1 with questions about the fire, shelter assistance and evacuation centers, with immediate responses.

“Live-answer service provides a personal, compassionate, human connection that people deserve — especially during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” said Justin Chase, president/CEO of Crisis Response Network. “It also allows us to better assist callers with any and all needs they may have.”

2-1-1 Arizona’s information and referral services can be accessed by website at www.211.org/, mobile app and by simply dialing 2-1-1 from anywhere in the state. Live-operator service is available 24 hours daily, with help in both English and Spanish. Assistance is also accessible at times in other languages via real-time interpreter service.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) designated 2-1-1 as the 3-digit number for information and referrals to social services and other assistance as early as 2000, but it’s only in the last few years that it has been active in Rim Country.

With funding from the Arizona Department of Economic Security, the 2-1-1, 24/7/365 answer service went live July 1, 2020. Since then, 2-1-1 has expanded to become the state’s go-to resource for health and human services, including general information and referral and eviction prevention. The 2-1-1 service is provided by more than 200 local organizations that are committed to serving their communities. Here in Gila County, Solari, Inc. is the local organization that has been designated for this service.

Financial resources for 2-1-1 Arizona currently come from state funding, federal COVID-19 relief funds and grant funding from the following sources: Arizona Department of Economic Security, Arizona Department of Health Services, Arizona Department of Housing, Maricopa County Department of Public Health, and Valley of the Sun United Way.

The top five reasons for people calling 2-1-1 Arizona in August 2020 were for housing and shelter — 33%; utility assistance — 22%; disaster assistance — 9%; emergency food assistance — 7%; and health care — 5%.

2-1-1 Arizona not only links individuals and families to vital community services in their time of need, but also partners with communities to identify gaps and provide solutions.

Danielle Fischer, a resource liaison specialist at Solari, Inc. helps to coordinate the services that are available to the call specialist, the person you will talk to when you call 2-1-1. Fischer belongs to a three-person resource specialist resource team with Gila County in her area of concern.

She said, “2-1-1 connects people to resources. They don’t just give information, but will walk the person through to the service they need. It’s a whole person model of care.”

For example, if a caller asks where to find rental assistance, the caller specialist who is answering the call might ask a series of questions to find out if it is COVID-19 related, or if there are other needs, such as for utility assistance. Then the individual will be referred to the appropriate person. They often stay on the phone until the connection is made.

With the 2-1-1 information and resource number, Solari, Inc. also provides a mental health crisis line and a peer support warm line. The crisis line staff can send a mobile team of trained Crisis Intervention Specialists to individuals who are experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis. Emergency transportation may be provided to shelters, hospitals, or substance use treatment centers. With the warm line a caller can talk to a peer mental health person. It may help reduce anxiety and prevent further escalation.

2-1-1 has become the information and referral program for the community. If you have a question, call the number to find answers anywhere in Arizona.

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