The Van Wert County Courthouse

Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022

2-1-1 telephone system gets local rollout

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

Often, people needing services are unsure of where to find them. Now, they have a place to find information on a variety of services and social programs: 2-1-1. The new program had its rollout Wednesday during a presentation in Van Wert City Council Chambers.

Van Wert County Commissioner Todd Wolfrum makes the first local 2-1-1 call, while United Way Executive Director Deb Russell listens. (Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent)
Van Wert County Commissioner Todd Wolfrum makes the first local 2-1-1 call, while United Way Executive Director Deb Russell listens. (Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent)

Like the 9-1-1 enhanced emergency telephone system the county has used for nearly two decades, the new 2-1-1 system can be accessed by dialing three easy to remember digits. The new system should also lower the number of non-emergency calls now made to 9-1-1 dispatchers, freeing up dispatchers to take emergency calls.

On hand to talk about the system were United Way of Van Wert County Executive Director Deb Russell, as well as Nick Roman, 2-1-1 director for Ohio United Way, and Diane Gatto-Barrett, who is in charge of the Cleveland call center that will answer Van Wert 2-1-1 calls.

“2-1-1 is a gateway to health and human services,” said Gatto-Barrett. “It makes it easy for people to connect to the resources they would otherwise have no idea existed.”

She also explained that the 2-1-1 system also eliminates duplication of services and keeps people from having to go from one agency to another looking for help.

The new program, which will be funded in the first three years by a grant from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, provides free and confidential access to social service and other community information. The 24/7 program provides information in a number of areas, including basic needs assistance, financial aid, volunteer opportunities, services for children and the elderly, and physical and mental healthcare.

Like the rollout for 9-1-1 nearly 20 years ago, when then-County Commissioner Dick Dunlap made the first call, current Commissioner Todd Wolfrum made the first 2-1-1 call on Wednesday – although his call was made on a cell phone, and not the landline used by Dunlap in the 1990s.

The 2-1-1 operator was friendly and informative, although he first referred Wolfrum, who said he was seeking mental health services for a friend, to Foundations in Celina before locating similar services in Van Wert at Westwood Behavioral Health Center.

Gatto-Barrett explained that 2-1-1 dispatchers are trained to talk to people and gather information from them that will help find an appropriate agency or organization that can deal with their particular problem, or problems. Calls can be brief, or take 20 minutes or more, depending on the nature of the request, she said.

Roman also noted that Van Wert County joins 67 counties, comprising 91 percent of all Ohioans, who are now served by the 2-1-1 telephone system. Like 9-1-1, Roman said the 2-1-1 system provides a valuable service to a community.

“We think that, over the course of time, you’ll be proud of 2-1-1 also,” he said.

POSTED: 10/30/14 at 5:49 am. FILED UNDER: News