Miami County is one of 18 counties statewide without a 211 resource information line, but that could soon change.
The exploration locally of a 211 system was discussed March 21 with the county commissioners by Richard Bender, director of the United Way of Troy.
A 211 system is designed to connect people with services they may need and help local/state governments along with nonprofit human services organizations work more cost effectively.
A meeting with government and service provider representatives was held recently, organized by State Sen. Bill Beagle of Tipp City.
Most 211 systems are run by United Way organizations, Bender told the commissioners. Tipp City and Piqua United Way representatives were scheduled to attend the discussion but were unable at the last minute due to inclement weather, he said.
Locally, initial steps will include soliciting bids for a 211 system service provider.
Because the county does not have a 211 line, people now “have to make several calls for assistance,” Bender said.
The 211 numbers provide people information for basic needs such as shelter, food, veterans assistance, healthcare, senior services, infant mortality prevention and domestic violence.
Local United Ways have talked about a service a number of years but there is now more focus with added collaboration by the United Ways in Troy, Piqua and Tipp City, Bender said. “We have kicked it around for a number of years without a unified plan,” he said.
In addition to more collaboration, the state United Way has money to help at least for the first and maybe second year, Bender said. After that, grants and other dollars, in some areas through the United Way, are used to pay.
The cost depends on the types of services selected in the county. The cost in Delaware County is about $20,000 a year for basic service; $35,000 with several options.
Commission President John “Bud” O’Brien said the service is bid by call centers. Bender said three in Ohio do the work by contract. They are provided the county specific information to share with those who call.
O’Brien pointed out that those seeking information now call government offices and 911, among others. The countywide Communication Center, which handles 911 across the county, reported around 600 such calls a year, he said.
He and fellow commissioners Jack Evans and Greg Simmons expressed interest in a 211 system. “It sounds like a worthwhile project,” Evans said.
A key to implementing a success system will be making sure word of its availability gets out, O’Brien said. “It is great to start a system like this, but marketing it is vital so people know how they can access it,” he said.
Bender said he would return to the commission once bids were received to obtain a formal letter of support. The support, he said, would give the effort “credibility” as the United Ways reach out to cities, villages and townships, Bender said.
Ohio United Way information shared on the 211 systems statewide said the top three requests received by 211 systems in the state in 2016 were for housing/utility assistance, food and health/medical inquiries.