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Assistance line up and running in Ashe County

Originally published: Feb. 1, 2013
Last modified: Feb. 1, 2013

Heather Canter

Ashe Countians now have access to a new resource that will place finding health and human services at their fingertips.

The help-line is 2-1-1 and offers callers information about services offered in the community. The number is currently active, but Friday, Feb. 1, is the official launch date.

The call is free, confidential and available in any language. It is a joint effort by the Ashe County Department of Social Services, Ashe Services for Aging and the Ashe County Commissioners.

The service is provided by the United Way of North Carolina and currently more than 80 percent of all North Carolinians have access to the line.

“The launch of 2-1-1 in Ashe County is an example of the agency cooperation we already have here,” said Lynda McDaniel, Ashe County DSS board chairwoman. “Social Services provided a home for the money and Ashe Services for Aging agreed to handle the database management and the county commissioners understood the need and approved the funding.”

The service coverage cost is $2,500 per year. McDaniel said that commissioners would have to approve the budget each year because it is 100 percent county money; however, “no county that has started 2-1-1 has ever given it up. They all obviously see the advantage of the program for a very small amount of money.”

The call center is located in Durham and area agencies have been providing information to be included in the system. The assistance line is available 24 hours a day and 365 days per year.

Callers will be able to receive help from trained referral specialists who will identify and route the person to the right resources based on the caller’s particular needs, according to McDaniel.

Ashe County Volunteer Coordinator Glenda Luther is the database manager for the program. Agencies that haven’t already submitted their information can contact Luther at (336) 246-2461, extension 225 to find out how to be included.

Housing, food, shelter, childcare, mental health services and legal aid will be among the human services that can be found by calling the line. A call to 2-1-1 could be transferred to 9-1-1 if the referral specialist learns the caller’s situation is an emergency.

“People getting to appropriate help in a timely manner is the ultimate service, but the biggest benefit of going through the 2-1-1 system is taking advantage of the economies of scale of a statewide operation,” McDaniel said. “It would not be cost effective for Ashe County to hire call specialists and translators around the clock to provide this service. Using United Way’s 2-1-1 gives us access to a quality service at a low price.”

The operators can also direct callers to services outside of Ashe County if what they need cannot be found here.

McDaniel said the service also addresses one of the concerns by the Ashe County Aging Plan for 2008 through 2013. An information and assistance initiative was identified as one of the top four concerns and selected for immediate action.

There are a few cell phones that cannot connect to 2-1-1, but those that encounter that problem can call the toll-free number at (888) 892-1162.

For more information and stories, see Ashe Mountain Times.