ALPENA -Since the local 211 help line has been available to assist people, the number of calls the service has received has increase steadily. On Wednesday Carlene Przykucki from Partners in Prevention, on behalf of the Human Services Cooperative Council, updated the Alpena County Finance Committee on the 211 program. She also requested the county contribute $500 in each year's annual budget to help fund the service.
After some discussion, the committee tabled the matter until planning begins for the 2014 budget. Przykucki said when the service began it was with a toll free number, but switched to the three digit number near the end of 2012. She said there has been a significant jump in the amount of users, since the number was shortened.
Przykucki said there was modest use while the toll free number was in place. She said there were 26 calls during the first quarter of 2012 and 28 in the second quarter. Use jumped by 52 percent between the third quarter when the three digit dialing was launched and the fourth quarter from 55 to 117. The number of callers increased again for the fisrt quarter of 2013 when 150 requests were received. Przykucki said as the service is promoted, she believes even more people will use the number for assistance.
"We are finding that there are still a great deal of people who don't know about 211 and it really isn't surprising, because we don't have paid advertising," Przykucki said. "We are still spreading the information about the service and we expect it to grow."
People should not confuse 211 with the 911 emergency hotline. Przykucki said 211 is used to help connect people with professional in the field requested by the caller. She said as an example a person needing assistance on a utility being shut off could call 211 and they would connect her to the proper source, instead of the caller having to make numerous calls to find the correct contact.
Commissioner Bob Adrian said over the years 911 has received many calls that weren't necessarily emergencies and people using 211 for those types of calls now help allow the dispatchers to focus on more life threatening calls.
"There are a lot of people that just don't know who the right person to ask for a particular question or problem and they perceive it as an emergency and call 911," Adrian said. "Hopefully that is something 911 won't have to deal with as often as more people learn about 211."
The county's budget runs from Jan1 through Dec. 31 and the commissioners should begin working on the 2014 budget in the next several months. Determination will be made at that time regarding a 211 allocation.
In other business:
The full board of commissioners meets on July 30 at 1 p.m.
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com