2-1-1 service starts for Montcalm, Ionia counties

By Kelli Ameling • Last Updated 12:11 pm on Monday, December 05, 2011

IONIA — A new resource line is available in Montcalm and Ionia Counties for people to dial when they have questions.

2-1-1 is set up for anyone to use for free to get connected to information about critical health and human services available in each county.

An example of a situation could be when gas or electric is about to be shut off and a person doesn’t know who to contact. The project was launched Friday at the Holiday Hometown Visit with Santa in Ionia.
Amanda Ciluffo, Americorps Vista (Volunteer In Service To America through United Way) at United Way, said all calls will go through Hands On Battle Creek.

The 2-1-1 program started organizing roughly three years ago, said Program Manager Darcy Brown.  Ciluffo said the Vista before her started working on developing the program and Ciluffo took over when she started.

Jim Pearl, executive director for Hands On Battle Creek, said about 95 percent of counties in Michigan have this system set into place.

“There are only two or three counties that do not,” he said and added that those last few counties might be in the process of getting the system.

Brown said the reason for the system is that people just did not know where to go for help. She said some have even called 9-1-1 because they just did not know what to do.

“We saw the success in other areas,” Brown said, and wanted to bring it to Montcalm and Ionia counties.
There will be a full staff available to answer phone calls 24/7, Ciluffo said.

Brown said while going through the process of setting up the program, she has learned that the community was split. Some thought there was already something in place, while others never heard of it.

Brown said United Way decided to launch the project at the Holiday Hometown Visit with Santa because a majority of the people who use the system are people with families.

At the hometown visit, children were able to meet Santa, do holiday activities and make Christmas cookies.

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