United Way of West Central Connecticut wants to increase awareness about 211

United Way of West Central Connecticut wants to increase awareness about the statewide 211 information line that they help support, which can provide a variety of resources to those who need help.

Donna Osuch, president and CPO of United Way of West Central Connecticut, said that Connecticut has had a statewide information line for more than 20 years. In addition to state money, it is supported by each United Way in Connecticut. Leading up to Feb. 11, or 2/11, the United Way is working to increase awareness of the service.

“The number one service that people call for has been counseling services,” said Osuch. “As of June 30, there were 10,000 calls for counseling services, which is five times as much as anything else. A lot of people are in need of mental health services due to feeling isolated and struggling to meet some basic needs. That is the number one reason over the last two years that people have been calling for counseling services. The second-highest was 2,000 calls for help finding housing.”

Osuch said that, as of June 30 2021, there was a 43% increase in calls since 2020. In total, 15,855 calls were placed from Bristol, Burlington, Plainville and Plymouth during this last fiscal year. From these, 19,014 referrals were made.

Osuch added that calling 211 is also the first step in connecting those who are experiencing homelessness to the state’s network of resources. People can call 211 from any phone in Connecticut.

In addition to dialing 211, Osuch said people can visit 211ct.org for non-emergency information.

“You can also use 211 to look up summer camp information or dial-a-ride services for elderly patients,” said Osuch. “The phone line is triaged so that emergency calls take precedence. If you are not experiencing an emergency and you are comfortable going online, then I would recommend it.”

Osuch added that the 211 information line is operated by “highly-educated, well-trained staff” that have, at the minimum, a bachelor’s degree. They also continually receive in-house training when new services are added.

“They are trained on how to talk to people and how to listen,” said Osuch. “If someone is calling them for one problem, there is a good chance that they are struggling in other areas. The operators know how to ask questions and help people find out about other assistance that they might qualify for.”

Connecticut was one of the first states to establish a state-wide 211 system. Prior to that, Osuch said, there were different lines for different regions. Connecticut’s system has been used as a model for other states.

“Connecticut’s 211 operators are often asked to help answer calls when there is a crisis in another part of the country, like a hurricane in Houston, TX,” said Osuch.

Published 1/25/2022 by The Bristol Press

Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or bjohnson@bristolpress.com.