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Calls on the rise to Kane's 2-1-1 service

Helpline connects people with information and assistance

KANE COUNTY – Phone calls from Kane County residents to the 2-1-1 helpline have been steadily increasing each month since the service was introduced late last year.

2-1-1 is a live telephone service that directs callers to the right place, whether the need is for counseling, food, clothing, shelter, medical help, utility assistance or any number of other social services.

The number of Kane County 2-1-1 calls each month has nearly doubled, from 116 last November when the service was first introduced, to 226 in May of this year. In between, the numbers grew consistently each month.

“The increasing numbers are heartening,” said Karen Zangerle, Director of Providing Access to Health (PATH) which operates the call center from its headquarters in Bloomington. “It takes a while to get a service like this one imbedded in a community.”

With 2-1-1 making its Kane County debut, the service now covers 40 Illinois counties, with Kane being the largest. Live specialists are on duty 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week.

Batavia United Way Director Melinda Kintz, who initiated the effort to bring 2-1-1 service to Kane, said the highest volume of calls is coming from the southern end of the county.

Indeed, when broken down by postal zip codes, the two areas generating the most calls are from Aurora, with Batavia’s 60510 producing the third highest volume of calls. Kintz said work is underway to get the word out at the north end of the county, where call volumes have been lower.

After an initial recording asking for a zip code, the caller is greeted by a trained volunteer providing information, and if needed, a direct transfer to the appropriate local agency. The volunteers are trained to listen and to ask questions.

Sometimes the calls are crisis situations involving domestic violence, threats of suicide or drug and alcohol interventions. Many others are simple inquiries for information, Zangerle said.

Contacts are available for basic human needs, including food, shelter, rent and utility assistance.

Inquiries for physical and mental health resources comprise a large proportion of the calls, including information and contacts on health insurance programs, Medicaid and Medicare.

“This is not just for poor people,” Zangerle said. “It is for people who are in need of services.”

Other callers are seeking employment, and the service connects them with job training, education programs and transportation assistance.

For seniors and persons with disabilities, the volunteers help callers identify local adult day care centers, home health care and independent living programs.

The service also connects people with support for children and families, including afterschool programs, tutoring and other resources.

The service was made possible in Kane County with funding from United Way, the Kane County government, the Kane County Regional School Superintendent’s office and local school districts.

The 2-1-1 service is designed to be available to every landline and cell phone user in Kane County. However, if the 2-1-1 call does not go through, people may call toll-free at 1-888-865-9903 to reach the service.

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