Resource really needs our support

Ten years ago this month, the Federal Communications Commission determined a scarce public resource, 2-1-1 — a remaining 3-digit abbreviated dialing code — should be used for access to community information and referral. Just as 9-1-1 connects people with emergency services, 2-1-1 connects people to important human services.

Last year, 2-1-1 centers answered more than 16 million calls, connecting people with job options, food, housing, education, counseling and much more. Federal, state and local agencies rely on 2-1-1 as the “go-to” number to connect people with important human services from a range of private nonprofits, government and faith-based agencies.

And despite the rapid growth and development, 2-1-1 still faces many barriers and limitations.

Not all Americans can access 2-1-1. Certain communications devices — such as wireless, IP and pre-paid phones — cannot reach 2-1-1. Lack of funding and coordination creates many obstacles to quality 2-1-1 service, such as longer hold times and misrouted calls.

More than 300 members of Congress agree that 2-1-1 should be available for all Americans. A broadly bipartisan group of 246 representatives and 61 senators have co-sponsored the Calling for 2-1-1 Act (H.R.211/S.211), a bill that would authorize a modest matching grant program to support 2-1-1.

Because of the economic recession, 2-1-1 is at the edge of its call-handling capacity. All Americans deserve to have 2-1-1 enabled and available to find help before problems escalate into major challenges like foreclosure, addiction or abuse.

On this 10-year anniversary of the FCC order to designate 2-1-1, we need you to call Congress and ask them to vote on the Calling For 2-1-1 Act before the August recess. 2-1-1 has proven itself as a fast, easy and cost-effective answer to help residents navigate the complex and ever-changing maze of human services — especially during this economic crisis.

Bill Brackin

Program Director,

Volunteers of America Western Washington