By Caree Jewell, Heart of Florida United Way
Everyone knows to dial 911 for a police, fire or medical emergency.
But what if you need access to critical community resources? Or just want to connect with someone who can provide a helping hand?
In that case, dial 2-1-1.
Staffed by highly trained specialists at Heart of Florida United Way, 2-1-1 is the region’s largest crisis support helpline. It’s a free service that’s completely confidential and available 24/7. And last year alone, 2-1-1 provided problem-solving for 1,797 families to meet their needs with personal resources.
Calling 2-1-1, you can access information about a wide range of topics, including:
- Local food banks and nutrition programs
- Emergency housing assistance
- Disaster relief
- Employment and education opportunities
- Veteran services
- Parent resources
- Tax preparation
- Healthcare information
- Special needs
- Mental health
- Suicide prevention
- Substance abuse
While February 11 is recognized as 2-1-1 Day, hundreds of people across Central Florida turn to 2-1-1 for assistance throughout the year. Here are a few of their stories.
Mary: Counseling resources
Mary, a mother of two, was concerned about her husband’s growing depression. When she called 2-1-1, she could not stop crying. After talking to the 2-1-1 specialist, she was connected to local counseling resources. During a follow-up call, Mary said the specialist was helpful and empathetic, calming her down and helping her cope. She also said that her husband reached out to the referrals she was given and had entered therapy.
Gloria: Financial assistance
Gloria was an out-of-work day laborer having a hard time making ends meet. When she called 2-1-1, a specialist gave her information on agencies that help with utility bills and job searches. Shortly thereafter, Gloria had a full-time job and was making a self-sustaining wage that would get her back on track. She was ecstatic and asked that 2-1-1 “keep up the good work.”
Kelly: Suicide prevention
Unemployed for eight months, Kelly was hopeless and depressed, and felt like a burden to her family. Contemplating suicide, she made the life-saving decision to call 2-1-1. The specialist helped Kelly develop an immediate safety plan, connected her with health insurance so she could see a psychiatrist, and linked her to an employment resource center. In the days ahead, Kelly began visiting a therapist and taking medication. Today, she has a job and is rebuilding her life – all thanks to a simple phone call.
Don’t wait to contact 2-1-1. Specialists are ready any time of day, and no challenge is too big or small. There are several ways to reach out:
- Call 2-1-1 from any phone
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Visit hfuw.org/2-1-1
- Text your zip code to 898-211
* Names and events were changed to protect client privacy.
Caree Jewell, LMHC, is the senior director of 2-1-1 at Heart of Florida United Way. For more information about United Way’s 2-1-1 call center, visit www.hfuw.org/United_Way_2-1-1.php.