Saying “hello” to help


Edgar and Clark County residents now have immediate access to a variety of health and human services close to home, all by dialing three numbers.

The 211 hotline is a free information and referral resource available during all hours, seven days a week, 365 days a year to anyone at no cost. The trained staff at the hotline have one job: to help connect each caller with whatever resources they need.

“When you call you get an actual human to talk to,” Krya Graham, a Horizon Health marketing associate, explained. “Whether it is an individual or someone calling on behalf of someone else, searching for a resource, they will try to deep dive with them to connect them to a local resource in the area.”

The concept of dialing 2-1-1 was first introduced to the nation in the 1990s as an easy-to-remember number with a mission of connecting people with the help they needed. With a continually updated resource database and trained resource navigators, 211’s mission is to offer assistance and answer questions about rent and utility assistance, food, emergency shelter, health care, counseling, support groups, senior services and much more.

According to Graham, the process of getting 211 services to Edgar County has taken nearly a year. Locally, the hotline is run by Bloomington-based Personal Assistance Telephone Help (PATH), the agency running the national suicide hotline 988. The infrastructure of the organization and its local connection has become possible because of a partnership between PATH and Horizon Health. 

“We sent them resource guides from the hospital and the schools, anywhere and everywhere we could,” Graham explained. “We worked with Clark County individuals too and the chamber, and the local health department, to get as many resources as we could and then 211 called every single contact and built a full resource list.”

The expansive list of available resources in Edgar County currently held by 211 includes non-profits, support groups and food banks as well as churches, schools and human services. For callers in search of something a community does not have, Graham says phone operators direct them to “the most local option” they can.

“They are trained, on the phone, to encourage callers to advocate for themselves, identify their causes and what they are really looking for,” Graham said. “If (operators) feel like (callers) are in crisis they can hot transfer them to 988 or to 911 automatically if they feel like there is an emergency.”

When someone calls 211, live operators help in three important ways:

  • They refer or connect callers to the correct agency based on the services needed, which can include rent, utility and food assistance, healthcare, counseling, support groups, senior services, legal help and more.
  • They help callers brainstorm possible solutions to problems they are facing and identify underlying causes of their needs.
  • They provide emotional support, even if the callers are not looking for resource referrals.

The services offered by 211 extend beyond the immediate access and connection operators provide to callers, Graham says the organization is also helping Edgar County cover the gaps.

“They are also sending us quarterly reports… so we can see what people are looking for and what they are needing, including unmet needs,” she explained.

Graham emphasized that even with the reports, the hotline is completely confidential and callers do not need to identify themselves when making a request.

“They don’t know who is calling and they don’t want to get your information,” Graham said. “They literally just want to help connect individuals with resources… it is a really nice aspect of the program.”

Calls to 211 on a landline phone are routed to the 211 call center. Graham and operators working with PATH suggest those using a cell phone use a more direct line and call 888-865-9903 to contact the same call center. Texting options are also available by texting any Edgar County zip code to 88211 and following the prompts. Unlike the call center, Graham does say texting options are not available 24/7.

“While there are several ways to access 211, calling is the best option to pinpoint the exact service someone needs,” she said.

211 hotline, Connection to help, PATH