The 2-1-1 Initiative in Illinois

What is 2-1-1?

2-1-1 is an easy-to-remember, non-emergency telephone number that connects people with essential community information and services. 2-1-1 saves time and frustration through specialists who match callers to the right agency based on each caller's need.

The 24-hour line makes it easy for the public to navigate the maze of human service providers and help lines. All calls are free, anonymous and confidential.

Callers can get live assistance with needs such as:

Who can use 2-1-1?

In Illinois, a pilot program that launched in February 2009 makes 2-1-1 available to residents in three parts of the state:

In 2010, more than 16.4 million calls nationwide were answered by 2-1-1. Illinois’ three call centers logged 20,590 calls in 2010 and 25,311 calls in 2011, a 23% increase.
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United Way's Role

United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta launched 2-1-1 in 1997. Since then, United Ways across the country have partnered with the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems to promote 2-1-1.

United Way has a long-standing commitment to helping create information and referral services in the community. In the late 1990s, the United Way of Illinois began working with the Illinois Alliance of Information and Referral Systems to bring 2-1-1 to the state. Legislation passed in 2003 created the 2-1-1 Collaboration Board to guide the state's pilot program.

In 2009, Gov. Quinn signed the 2-1-1 Service Act into law at the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago. The law calls for a lead organization to plan and implement 2-1-1 across the state working under contract with the Department of Human Services. In 2010, 2-1-1 Illinois, a not-for-profit organization, was selected as that “lead entity.” Since than the three original pilot programs have received permanent approval.

What's next for 2-1-1?

The 2-1-1 Illinois Board has approved PATH, one of the pilot call centers, to operate as the call center for 83 Illinois counties. PATH and 36 United Ways across the state are working together to find funding for call centers in those counties. By the end of 2012, residents in 30-35 Illinois counties are expected to have access to 2-1-1. The ultimate goal, though, is to bring the service to all Illinoisans 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.