Do you need information about food pantry locations, child care options, or other community resources? Just dial 2-1-1 and a referral specialist will assist you in finding help. In Massachusetts, the 2-1-1 system is funded by the 16 local United Ways and on Feb. 11, also recognized as Mass2-1-1 Day, Berkshire United Way (BUW) and Northern Berkshire United Way (NBUW) will join partners from across the Commonwealth to raise awareness of this important public service.
This year’s celebration will be held virtually at 2:11 p.m. on Thursday and members of the public are invited to attend by following this link: http://bit.ly/211dayma (meeting ID: 972 0171 7774; passcode: 257168). The event will feature several notable attendees and longtime supporters of Mass2-1-1, and a special video submission from Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito’s office will proclaim Feb. 11, 2021 as 2-1-1 Day across the Commonwealth. More information about the event can be found on BUW and NBUW Facebook pages.
“Mass2-1-1 is an important resource for Berkshire County. During the pandemic, when many of our nonprofits were overextended and pivoting to provide virtual services, Mass2-1-1 assisted thousands of residents with up-to-date information about where to go to receive help,” said Candace Winkler, president and CEO of Berkshire United Way. “Many callers were concerned about potential COVID-19 exposure and needed clear guidance about what to do and how to keep their families safe. Mass2-1-1 had an epidemiologist available around the clock to answer public health questions and ensure callers were given appropriate advice about where and when to seek medical care or testing services.”
Specifically, Mass2-1-1 provides telephone and web information and referral service for residents of the Commonwealth 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Trained 2-1-1 Information and Referral Specialists connect callers to thousands of human service organizations to address needs related to food, housing and emergency shelter, elder care, physical and mental health services, child care resources, drug and alcohol services, utility assistance, victim services and, at times, emergency or disaster relief.
According to Paul Mina, Mass2-1-1 executive director, more than 200,000 COVID-19 calls have been answered from across Massachusetts since Gov. Charlie Baker declared Mass2-1-1 as the official COVID-19 call line last March, and close to a thousand calls continue to come in daily.
“Our United Ways have supported Mass2-1-1 for many years, so when we learned that the call centers were fielding a significant increase in calls dues to the pandemic, we were quick to help with an additional grant from our COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund,” said Christa Collier, executive director of Northern Berkshire United Way. “We are excited to join United Ways across the state on 2-1-1 Day to raise awareness of Mass2-1-1 and its value in our communities.”
Mass2-1-1 has recently expanded its services to help with vaccine scheduling and crisis intervention. A new call center enables residents age 75 or older to simply dial 2-1-1 to talk to an operator who will navigate the vaccine website to schedule an appointment.
Call2Talk, the mental health helpline of Mass2-1-1, opened a new call center at United Way of Pioneer Valley to assist residents in the 413-area code. Highly trained volunteers speak with individuals experiencing an emotional crisis and provide appropriate support and intervention services as needed. Call2Talk can be reached at (413) 505-5111.