STATEWIDE FUNDING FOR 211 ADVOCACY

Introduction

211 is a free, 24/7/365 service for individuals in Ohio. Community resource specialists receive calls from individuals and match the callers’ needs to available resources in their community such as employment, food, housing, utility assistance, counseling, substance use treatment, legal services, tax preparation, and health care.

In 2023, 211 programs across Ohio served over 785,000 callers and an additional 45,000 texts, chats, and emails which addressed over 900,000 needs. The top needs from callers in 2023 were housing, food, and utilities. Without connection to 211, these individuals may have ended up in emergency rooms, shelters, or other costly state programs. When people are connected to services before an emergency arises, they can recover more quickly and become more self-sufficient. Moreover, 211 plays a key role in Ohio’s pandemic and emergency response efforts.


Ohio’s residents have demonstrated an increased need for health, mental health, substance use, employment, and social services, highlighting the necessity for statewide 211 access. Ohio’s unemployment rate is 4 percent, 18th highest in the country (as of spring 2024), the poverty rate is 12.6 percent, 17th highest in the country, and Ohio has 47.2 (per 100,000) drug overdose deaths, 4th highest in the country. To address these issues, community members must have ongoing access to vital health and social services. These systems can be difficult to access when people do not know where to go. The 211 number is easy to remember and always available.


211 saves lives and state funds. Connection to social services keeps people out of the hospital, in their communities with their families, and on the path to maintain self-sufficiency.


There are currently 14 call centers providing 211 services in Ohio, all as members of the Ohio Alliance of Information and Referral Services (AIRS), yet there are still pockets of the state not covered by 211. Ohio 211s currently are funded by charitable or local dollars or a combination of both. Ohio is one of only three states that do not provide ongoing state funding for 211. A $2 million investment by the state would match the philanthropic investment United Ways make in 211 each year.

 

United Way of Greater Lorain County Position

United Way of Greater Lorain County (UWGLC) believes the State of Ohio must invest to deliver this effective, efficient, and essential community service to all Ohioans. UWGLC supports the commitment of statewide funding for 211 in the state operating budget in an amount that matches local philanthropic investment.