211 assistance line coming in the spring

Published: Friday, March 17, 2017 11:58 p.m. CDT

DeKALB – This spring, the Kishwaukee United Way will be starting a 24-hour access line to connect area residents with community, social, government and health service agencies.

The 211 line, which has been a nationwide initiative, has been discussed in DeKalb County for years, but the United Way recently acquired the funding for a four-year pilot program.

KishHealth System, which is now a part of Northwestern Medicine, First Midwest Bank, DeKalb County Community Foundation, DeKalb Township, Northern Illinois University and the Kishwaukee United Way have all donated money to this project.

‘“The concept is to be able to help make it easier to gain access to free health and human services that are available from various agencies, but that the public may not find easily on their own,” said Kishwaukee United Way board member Paul Callighan. “They’d be able to get connected to a 24-hour operator who can help direct people to particular services. There will also be a web-based component to it.”

Kishwaukee United Way Executive Director Dawn Littlefield said the community gained awareness of the program after the April 2015 tornado that devastated Fairdale.

About 60 agencies have signed on to be involved with the service, and the service line will include a translator for 159 languages, she said.

“The ultimate goal is to better connect people who need help to the help that they need,” Littlefield said.

Calls would be directed to Path Crisis Center in Bloomington.

“There are people who are trained in disaster prevention, suicide prevention and other emergency services,” Littlefield said. “There’s not someone on the other end unable to handle crisis calls.”

She added that the United Way is hoping to have the 211 line running in May, depending on how long it takes for the telecommunications system to transfer all calls coming through.

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