December 22, 2015
To The Editor,
In 2006 the Council of Massachusetts United Ways created Mass2-1-1, a statewide, free information and referral hotline available 24/7, 365 days a year for the people of the Commonwealth.
People call the easy to remember three digit 2-1-1 number or search the 2-1-1 database on line at www.mass211help.org when looking for resources to meet basic needs, including heating and utility assistance, shelter, emergency help, and the closest food pantry. They also call for everyday important non-emergency needs, such as developmental screening for a child, home health care for a relative, job training or free tax filing support.
2-1-1 was launched nationally by United Way of America almost 25 years ago as a free way to connect people to essential resources. Today, 2-1-1 is available in all 50 states, plus Washington DC and Puerto Rico. Here in Massachusetts, 2-1-1 service is available in all 14 counties, serving 100% of the state’s population. “Mass 2-1-1 is an essential tool for helping our local community and families, in addition to making more efficient use of local nonprofit and public resources,” said Dennis Carman, United Way of Greater Plymouth County President & CEO, one of the funders of Mass2-1-1. Locally, “3,535 people called Mass2-1-1 in the last 12 months. Rent and electric payment assistance, child care expense assistance applications, heating fuel payment assistance, and food pantry information were among the top needs” Carman said.
So what happens when you call Mass2-1-1? When you dial 2-1-1 (a free call), the call is routed to a trained information and referral specialist, who helps identify your need(s), then refers you to relevant human services, health, or education resources from a comprehensive database. For example, in the case of a worker who has recently been laid off or whose hours have been reduced, the 2-1-1 specialist may share information about unemployment benefits, job search options, food stamps, food pantries, mortgage or rent help, utility assistance, counseling and other available resources.
Mass 2-1-1 is a program of the United Ways of Massachusetts and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. According to Mass2-1-1 CEO Paul Mina, “the collaboration between the United Way and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts allows Mass2-1-1 to access stable resources sufficient enough to continue this vital service well into the future”. Mass2-1-1 is also the official hotline for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), during weather emergencies, homeland security issues or any other events as identified by the Governor. In addition, Mass2-1-1 is under contract with the Executive Office of Health & Human Services (EOHHS) to serve as the official phone line for the Office of Early Education and Care (EEC for child Care) as well as the official hotline for Children Requiring Assistance (CRA) and the Runaway Assistance Program (RAP). The toll free number is 877-211-6277 and the TTY number is 508-370-4890.
Just another good reason to support your local United Way!
About United Way of Greater Plymouth County
Established in 1922, United Way of Greater Plymouth County’s mission is “We unite people, ideas and resources to improve the lives of people in Greater Plymouth County.” United Way envisions a “a safe, healthy and well-educated community in which people's needs are met effectively, respectfully and compassionately” by focusing its resources on addressing the vital and interconnected needs of education, health and income. United Way serves the communities of southeastern Massachusetts, including the city of Brockton and the towns of Abington, Avon, Bridgewater, Carver, Duxbury, East Bridgewater, Easton, Halifax, Hanover, Hanson, Kingston, Lakeville, Marshfield, Middleboro, Pembroke, Plymouth, Plympton, Rockland, Stoughton, West Bridgewater, and Whitman.