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Harrison County

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211 services expanding

Updated: Friday, April 11 2014, 06:39 PM EDT
TUSCARAWAS COUNTY, Ohio -- The United Way in Tuscarawas County is looking to expand its 211 information and referral services to Harrison County to streamline contact to various community resources.
The three-digit number connects callers to health and human services and all costs will be covered by a start-up grant.
These services will be available to residents 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
It provides one centralized number that anyone can call when in need for community resources. Food pantries, clothing pantries, counseling services or financial assistance are all available with for residents with a quick phone call.
The 211 system will provide residents with a person that will connect them with resources in a community.
"It also allows communities to track the types of calls," said Alison Kerns, president of Tuscarawas County United Way. "Are people in a particular community looking for a particular resource? Maybe we need to focus more on that resource. Or are they looking for something that possibly is an unmet need and maybe communities aren't offering something that they are in need of?"
The services would be launched by the United Way of Tuscarawas County through an expansion grant from the Ohio United way and be paid in full through 2017.
Surrounding counties like Jefferson and Carroll Counties have already launched the service, and Harrison could soon be the next.
Kerns says that even in rural counties like Harrison, residents have difficulty accessing the services they need.
"The individuals will call our office and need information about a particular thing that we might not have the information for," said Scott  Blackburn, director of Harrison County Job and Family Services. "We then have to come up for a number for them to call, so it will cut down the calls that people will need to make to get the information that they need"
In 2012, information specialists answered 1,700 calls from Tuscarawas County residents and 2,300 referrals to community  resources.
But 211 streamlines that process, and as much of a convenience as it may be for the residents, it will also benefit the businesses that those residents are seeking.
"It makes it easier for the communities," Kerns said, "but it also helps those agencies in the community because they need to focus on the work that they do and maybe they have a caller that they can't help and it may take a lot of time to determine what help they need and where they can get it."
Kerns said they must first go through an application process and be designated as a 211 Call Center by the Ohio Council of information and referral providers.
Her goal is to take the program live on Nov. 1.

211 services expanding

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