In 1968, 9-1-1 became the national emergency number for the United States. Calling this single number provided callers access to police, fire and ambulance services. The number itself, howeve2-1-1 pat phalen - blogr, did not become widely known until the 1970s, and many communities didn’t have 9-1-1 service until the mid-to late 1980s.

The United Way of Central Illinois is hoping its 2-1-1 service hotline takes less time to become part of the country’s everyday vernacular.

United Way’s 2-1-1 service connects individuals with community resources.  It’s a one-stop connection to the local services people need including utility assistance, food, housing, child care, after-school programs, elder care, crisis intervention and much more. 2-1-1 is always ready to help anyone.

• To use the service, simply dial 2-1-1 or call 1-888-865-9903.
• Call centers are staffed by trained specialists.
• The toll-free service is available 24/7.
• The program offers multilingual capabilities.

The program includes a growing online database of services.  For example, if you’re looking for utility service providers or how to help your grandparents or another senior citizen, you can look in the Consumer Assistance and Protection category.  You’ll not only learn the name, address and phone number of the agency, you’ll find the web address and be able to map directions from your home.

But the real strength of the program is the ability for those in need to know there’s a live person they can reach out to when in need.  When calling anywhere in Sangamon or Menard County, you will reach a highly-trained call specialist who can refer you to the appropriate resources in your community. Every day, call specialists help with complex issues such as financial problems, substance abuse and suicide prevention.  They’re also able to point people in the right direction when it comes to simpler concerns such as finding volunteer opportunities and donation options.

For more details, visit United Way’s 2-1-1 “Get Connected” web page.  But most importantly, learn and share the number.  2-1-1.