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United Way partners to launch 2-1-1 information and referral service

United Way will announce the official launch of PA 2-1-1 Northwest information and referral service in Erie, Venango and Warren Counties at a press conference on Tuesday, May 23 at 10:30am at United Way of Erie County.

This toll-free, three-digit number is a resource individuals can use to learn about the community’s network of health, human and social services. Trained, professional resource navigators will respond to callers’ inquiries Monday through Friday 8am to 4:30pm. Additionally, multilingual and hearing-impaired callers can be accommodated. 24/7/365 phone service is expected to be available to the community by the end of 2017.

There are two additional ways individuals can access 2-1-1 information. Thanks to sponsorship from the Erie Maennerchor, Fulton Athletic Club, Moniuszko Singing Society, Slovak National Club and the South Erie Turners, individuals can access the PA 2-1-1 Northwest website, PA211NW.org and conduct their own search or text their need and zip code to 898-211.

2-1-1 service in the 12-county Northwest Pennsylvania region is being managed by Southwest Pennsylvania 2-1-1 which handles 2-1-1 calls for the 11-county Southwest PA region including Pittsburgh and the 4-county Southeast Pennsylvania region including Philadelphia. SWPA 2-1-1 has emerged as one of the leading 2-1-1 programs in the nation and is instrumental in developing national 2-1-1 standards.

SWPA 2-1-1 has hired a full-time database specialist from Erie, Josh Jaeger, who is assisting Erie, Venango and Warren Counties with the launch of 2-1-1 service. Jaeger will assist other counties in the Northwest region counties as each prepares to launch 2-1-1 service.

“United Way’s 2-1-1 will make information on a wide variety of local support services more accessible,” said United Way President, Bill Jackson. “Whether it’s information for locating a health clinic, finding child care programs, or getting housing assistance, 2-1-1 is an easy-to-remember, go-to resource for individuals and families.”

Gary N. Lee, Erie County Director of Administration states “In Erie County government, we welcome this valuable initiative from United Way and its partners. In county government, we are all too aware of the health and social services needs of our residents. By providing an easy, instant connection to information, 2-1- 1 provides a critical bridge to social services. And, it is important to note, 2-1- 1 helps serve as a central source of information, one of the challenges cited in the 2016 Erie County Health Improvement Plan. We commend the United Way for securing the 2-1- 1 service in Erie County, and we encourage our municipalities and emergency responders to join county government in supporting and promoting this asset.”

In addition, 2-1-1 has proven to be an essential service for communities devastated by man-made or natural disasters, taking non-emergency calls away from 9-1-1 which is for police, fire and medical emergencies. United Way hopes to work with local municipalities to enhance their communications in non-emergency and crisis situations.

In launching 2-1-1 today, United Way is providing residents with a vital community resource currently available to 93% of all Americans. United Way Worldwide and its local affiliates began their work to provide an easy-to-access information and referral service in 1998. The FCC approved 2-1-1 for information and referral services in 2000. Since that time, local United Ways have taken the lead in introducing 2-1-1 service to their communities. Crawford, Jefferson, McKean Counties are expected to activate PA 2-1-1 Northwest by the end of 2017 and all 12 counties in the region are expected to be on the statewide 2-1-1 network by the close of 2018.

The 2-1-1 database for Erie County uses information found in Gannon University’s Human Services Directory. Over the next few months, the database will continue to grow as agencies enter detailed information about their programs into the regional database. After the May 23 launch, individuals logging into the Gannon Human Services Directory will be redirected to the 2-1-1 database.