'211' help service in Lake County couldn't have come at better time, official says

cell pone call
cell phone call illustration Photo credit Getty Images

(WBBM NEWSRADIO) — Talk about opportune timing.

It’s been two years since United Way of Lake County launched its 211 program: a free, confidential, 24-hour information and referral helpline to provide a one-stop shop for help.

“We launched 211 on September 24th, 2019, just six months before the pandemic, and goodness knows it could not have come at a better time,” said Kristi Long, President and CEO of United Way of Lake County.

Over the last two years, the program has fielded more than 100,000 calls from Lake County residents seeking information or help.

Resource navigators help connect individuals to health and human services across Lake County. These include housing and rental assistance, free food delivery, mental health services and addiction support.

Long noted 211 has been critical during the coronavirus pandemic.

“This past year our 211 contact center has responded not only to an increase in call volume, but also longer call time,” Long said. “Many callers are feeling anxious, fearful, exhausted with more complex situations and needs than ever before.”

During a celebratory ‘Two Year Review’ event, Zion Mayor Billy McKinney said the police department experienced the benefits of 211 firsthand.

“They stopped a gentleman that was in a mental health crisis and our police officers were able to talk to this gentleman for a while, get him calmed down and be able to call 211 to give him some help,” McKinney said.
“It's those personal things that we have to do as a community now to take that extra step to maybe do things that we haven't typically done in the past.”

Lake County’s 211 service can be accessed 24/7 by phone, text or by visiting 211LakeCounty.org.