The Herald of Everett, Washington
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Published: Sunday, June 24, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

211, the non-emergency alternative to 911

Not everyone who calls 911 needs a firefighter or police officer. A second system exists to help people who need human and social services: 211. The modern 211 system started in Washington in 2006. Calls climbed as the economy sank. Some say the service is underused by many it could benefit. The 211 system is a centralized call center for people who need help or have emergencies that don't involve immediate danger. In 2011, the center received 44,687 calls from people in Snohomish County. Callers sought help with more than 50,000 matters. One in five callers needed a phone number or address. Other common concerns were home heating assistance, housing and shelter, and mental health. 211 exists to connect people directly to appropriate human-service agencies. That saves them multiple calls and trips, and reduces misdirected requests to 911 and other agencies, said Bob Reese, regional vice president of Volunteers of America, which operates 211 in northwest Washington. Funding sources include regional United Way chapters, and local, state and federal governments. The 211 system also is useful after natural disasters such as floods, landslides and winter storms, said John Pennington, Snohomish County emergency management director. It can help people access state and federal disaster relief. About 4,300 needs raised during 211 calls were unmet in 2011. That means 211 wasn't able to provide an appropriate referral.

211 calls by Snohomish County ZIP code

ZIP code211 calls in 2011
982016,921
982044,619
982033,454
982082,948
982702,769
980362,152
982231,777
980371,635
982581,582
980871,507
980261,370
980121,236
982711,202
982901,137
980431,044
98272931
98292550
98252513
98294448
98275438
98021411
98020345
98251321
98011284
98296280
98072166
98205101
9824184
9807740
9825631
9804626
9820717
9829316
9829112
9808210
982139
982594
982873
980410
982820

211 calls in 2011 by subject matter

BANKRUPTCY59
COMMUNITY ISSUES6,198
  Adoption/foster care9
  Death/dying/bereavement1
  Runaway/missing person1
  Community voice mail assistance15
  Shower facilities18
  Wildlife/domestic animals122
  Crime and violence35
  Parks and recreation35
  Workshop/self-help classes109
  Other5,853
CHILD CARE329
CREDIT/DEBT MANAGEMENT71
DISASTER129
  Earthquake1
  Emergency preparedness110
  Fire12
  Flood6
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE307
DONATIONS438
EDUCATION169
EMERGENCY SHELTER3,821
EMPLOYMENT184
FOOD/FOOD BANK1,469
TAX PREPARATION/EITC746
GOVERNMENT ASSISTANCE399
  Child care subsidies/grants10
  Food stamps/Quest card190
  Low-cost medical insurance requests13
  Medicaid/medical coupons85
  Temporary Assistance for Needy Families/Workfirst46
  WIC24
  Other31
HOLIDAY FOOD OR GIFTS1,135
HOUSEHOLD, CLOTHING, PERSONAL GOODS1,825
  Child car seats138
  Clothing957
  Furnishings/appliances590
  Personal goods140
HOUSING/LOW-COST HOUSING2,489
LEGAL2,411
  Civil rights41
  Child support and child custody259
  Divorce/separation202
  Legal representation/information1,806
  Mediation/arbitration/conciliation103
LICENSING/PERMITS127
  Birth certificate24
  Death certificate2
  Drivers license19
  Marriage license5
  Passport7
  Social Security card9
  Food handler permits10
  Other51
MENTAL AND BEHAVIORAL HEALTH1,774
  Anger management52
  Counseling request920
  Eating disorders3
  Mental illness diagnosis/treatment613
  Sexual problem4
  Suicide19
  Support group request163
MORTGAGE FORECLOSURE145
PARENTING91
PHYSICAL HEALTH, DENTAL673
PHYSICAL HEALTH, GENERAL1,224
  AIDS information/services16
  Assistive technology for people with disabilities115
  Disability/disease40
  Environmental/health9
  Eye care and glasses226
  Family planning76
  Immunizations15
  Pregnancy-related services24
  Prevention53
  Medical treatment650
PROGRAM CUTS128
PUBLIC SAFETY11
RENT/MORTGAGE/MOVING ASSISTANCE5,455
REQUEST FOR ADDRESS OR TELEPHONE12,574
SCHOOL SUPPLIES173
SENIOR/DISABLED CARE206
SOCIAL INSURANCE PROGRAMS147
  Basic Health64
  Labor & Industries2
  Medicare7
  Social Security Disability Insurance40
  Supplemental Security Income14
  Unemployment compensation18
  Veteran benefits2
DRUG/ALCOHOL ABUSE423
TAX ISSUES78
TEMPORARY FINANCIAL AID967
  Automotive154
  Cash338
  Death-related expenses24
  Education/vocational  tuition32
  Medical expense77
  Prescription medications342
TRANSITIONAL HOUSING1,158
TRANSPORTATION/TRAVEL1,144
  Education transportation8
  Employment transportation47
  General transportation702
  Medical transportation270
  Other transportation35
  Out of state transportation82
UTILITIES6,632
  Home heating assistance5,670
  Telephone/cable/water/trash962
MISCELLANEOUS OTHER228
TOTAL MET NEEDS55,537
Some calls involved multiple subjects.
SOURCE: Volunteers of America

How to help

Volunteers of America accepts donations to help run 211 and other social services. For more information about donating, contact William Raihl at Wraihl@voaww.org or 425-609-2209.

More about 211

Volunteers of America: www.voa.org
211 website: www.win211.org
Story tags » Social IssuesSnohomish County

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