Eleven months after the 211 program was approved for use in Ashe County, positive results are being shown.
“A fair number of calls are coming in, and there have certainly been no complaints,” said Lynda McDaniel, chair of the Social Services Board, and one of the organizers to bring the service to the county. “I’m guessing it has reduced the number of non-emergency calls being directed to 911 now that there is this alternative.”
The 211 program is sponsored by United Way of North Carolina. The call center, which directs callers to an office in Durham County, can help people several different ways, including trying to quit smoking, finding food pantries and access to healthcare.
“One of the advantages of using the call center is that they have exceptionally well-trained and experienced staff handling the calls,” McDaniel said. “They are available 24/7 and have access to translation services for virtually any language.
McDaniel said Ashe County couldn’t provide that service on a single county basis without a huge expense.
The 211 service started in North Carolina in 1999, in 2013, the Ashe County Board of Commissioners approved the service for use in the county.
“No county has ever stopped the 211 program, once they got started, even in these tough, economic times,” McDaniel said. “I think that speaks very well for the program.”
McDaniel said another selling point was in the county’s Aging Services plan, which listed an information and referral service system as one of the county’s top needs. The 211 call center is able to serve in that capacity.
While Ashe and Watauga counties have the service available, neighboring counties including Alleghany and Wilkes only have web-only coverage, which is provided to all 100 N.C. counties.
All phone calls to the 211 center are free and confidential. For more information on the program, visit www.nc211.org