On February 11, directors of 211 centers everywhere are reminding the community that help is just a phone call away.
The Help Network of Northeast Ohio has been around for nearly 50 years. About 20 years ago, the nationwide effort to connect people to help gained steam.
“211 became the number across the country that people utilize to get access to resource, support if they are in crisis,” said CEO Vince Brancaccio.
Brancaccio says people call 211 for a variety of reasons.
“If their utilities are going to be shut off. If they need mental health or substance abuse help and don’t know where to go. A simple number, 211,” he said.
No matter when you call, someone will answer at the other end of the line.
“We average 400 calls a day. 13,000 calls each month and around 130 thousand calls each year,” Brancaccio said.
Duane Piccirilli with the Mahoning Board of Mental health and recovery says the local 211 provides additional services.
“The really nice thing about help network is, it’s a blended agency. So in addition to being 211, it is a crisis center. So many times when people are calling for information, they are in a crisis,” Piccirilli said.
Brancaccio says the call taker’s job is difficult but rewarding.
“It’s an emotionally draining job but it’s also a very fulfilling job. At the end of the day, if you help someone, if you help them stay out of the cold, get food, get resources, if you help them, they were considering suicide and after the conversation, they are no longer considering suicide, that’s gratifying,” Brancaccio said.
There are 65 people who work for 211. The funding for the service comes from the Mental Health Board and other sources.