TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Call 211 for Help in Florida

Call 211 for Help in Florida

Raghuram Vadarevu (
Sun, 10 Jul 2005 22:03:52 -0500

All of you can call 211 for aid soon. Sprint clients can dial it now;
BellSouth customers can soon. With hurricane season here, folks are
urged to.


LECANTO - Officials at social service agencies in Citrus County had
hoped this year that the much-anticipated 211 telephone line would be
up and running before June.

They were almost right.

Since May, most Citrus residents and businesses could dial 2-1-1 and
be connected to the 24-hour, seven-days-a-week phone line that
connects those in need with social services agencies in the county.

Those residents are customers of Sprint.

Customers of BellSouth, who mainly live in South Dunnellon, Citrus
Springs and Yankeetown, will have to wait possibly until the end of
the month to get the service, said John Marmish, executive director of
the United Way of Citrus County.

Marmish's agency is administering the 211 contract for the county, and
officials overseeing the 211 line have not yet publicized the service
because they want to wait until BellSouth customers also have access.

With hurricane season in full swing, Marmish said people in the county
could take advantage of the 211 line to find food pantries, agencies
that offer financial assistance and so forth.

Marmish said calls to the line from businesses might get a busy signal
because the business has blocked three-digit numbers. To correct the
problem, he said, businesses should contact the telephone company.

The 211 information can also be accessed online at

Once there, visitors can click on the "2-1-1 database" link, which
will call up a search page. The visitor can select the specific
service he is looking for, from assisted living facilities to AIDS
testing, support groups to volunteer programs.

The visitor to the site, which also serves other counties, can narrow
the search to Citrus.

The operator of the Web site and the 211 line is called 211 Tampa Bay
Cares Inc., a call center in Pinellas County that social service
officials in Citrus selected late last year. The call center will have
access to a list of social service agencies in Citrus.

The 211 system has taken years to get to Citrus. The Federal
Communications Commission had designated 211 for information and

Last year, the idea gained momentum when the county health department
presented results of its first comprehensive look at health needs in
the county and found that many residents wanted the 211 telephone

The County Commission approved $22,000 for the program, and the Shared
Services Alliance, an umbrella group for social service agencies,
formed a 211 committee and set about finding a call center. It
selected 211 Tampa Bay Cares last fall.

The county will pay Citrus United Way to administer the contract with
211 Tampa Bay Cares. The call center can produce weekly, monthly or
quarterly reports, and the county can use them to identify areas of

Since most of Citrus was able to access the 211 line in May, there
have been 71 callers from the county, the call center reported. Among
those, there were 23 requests for information about financial
assistance and 13 for housing.

Marmish said he expects those numbers to increase as more people learn
about the line. In an e-mail, he said, the "stats on callers (are)
before we have announced to the public that the 211 system is fully

Officials hope the BellSouth customers will have access by month's

Raghuram Vadarevu can be reached at or

Copyright 2005 St. Petersburg Times
490 First Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: I've a question: Is this new '211'
thing similar to '311' as presented in many major cities? Is it
to also supplement 311 service in Florida? PAT]

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