For close to 10 years, information about rent and utility assistance, veterans’ services, mental health, medical care and other needs has been at the fingertips of Kansas City area residents.
The ease and convenience of the United Way of Greater Kansas City’s 2-1-1 line was celebrated Wednesday as 2-1-1 Day. Feb. 11 also happened to be a national day of recognition for 2-1-1.
The United Way 2-1-1 line started in March 2006, serving 16 counties in Missouri and seven in Kansas. In the first year, it received 58,000 calls.
Since 2006, 2-1-1 specialists have taken 1.1 million calls — 140,000 alone in 2014. The United Way reports that most of the callers are seeking utility and rent assistance. That’s not surprising because social service agencies in the Kansas City area tell people needing help to call 2-1-1.
But callers also are asking where they can find services for veterans, school supplies, where they can get high school equivalency degrees, tax preparation (’tis the season), and dental and prescription aid. Most of the calls in 2014 were from Jackson County residents.
More than half were calling for the first time, and more than half had children. About half of the callers were age 18 to 39.
When the help line started, it was staffed with seven call specialists. Today there are 22 specialists taking calls. They field questions from people and provide answers 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Included among the call specialists are a veterans navigator and a health care advocate. The United Way, which mostly funds the service, is working on adding an older adults specialist.
In addition to 2-1-1, people can also access information online at www.211KC.org. That part of the service logged 22,000 Web visits last year.
People may have taken a moment Wednesday to cheer 2-1-1, but thankfully it is a service that area residents can depend on year-round.