211, the non-emergency alternative to 911

  • Sat Jun 23rd, 2012 4:43pm
  • News

Reported by Rikki King / Herald Writer

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