February 11th Is National 2-1-1 Awareness Day

     FirstLink’s helplines are one of our state’s best and most valuable resources, yet I’m surprised by how many people do not yet know about them. Across the nation, Feb. 11 is 2-1-1 Awareness Day! When you read on to learn more about FirstLink’s 2-1-1 helpline, please pay it forward by telling someone in your circle of friends, neighbors, or colleagues about it. The 2-1-1 helplines like the 8-1-1 helplines, 9-1-1, 4-1-1 or 5-1-1 helplines can be a great resource for you! 


     February 11 (2/11) is official “2-1-1 Day” in recognition of the free, easy to remember phone number that connects North Dakota residents and Clay County residents to essential community information and services such as basic needs resources, disaster assistance, military support, disability support, support groups, victim services, rent and mortgage assistance, food and shelter, transportation, childcare, senior care, volunteer opportunities and much more. FirstLink’s 2-1-1 call center maintains a comprehensive database of health and human services from across the state. Residents can also search the database online at www.myfirstlink.org. In 2012 FirstLink, handled 39,623 calls, and made thousands of referrals . Typically callers may receive several referrals, because an individual may need multiple services. For example, someone may dial 2-1-1 for housing assistance, but in talking through their situation with the call specialist , also require substance abuse services and transportation. 


     If you dial 2-1-1 on your phone, you will be connected to a highly trained call specialist who will talk through your needs, explore the options and programs that are available, and refer you to services that best fit your needs. The program isn’t only for those in desperate situations. Call specialists can assist with queries such as locating support groups in your area and finding volunteer opportunities and organizations that you may not have known about. FirstLink also provides listening and support. 


     FirstLink also handles suicide and crisis calls each year on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) and are fully accredited by the American Association of Suicidology (AAS), and by the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS). In 2012, FirstLink answered 1,416 calls that were suicide related. 


     2-1-1 service has been in North Dakota since February 11, 2004. FirstLink has been answering hotlines for over 40 years, and has been answering 2-1-1 calls for all of North Dakota since 2010. (They previously answered 2-1-1 calls for Cass and Clay counties only, and another agency answered for the rest of the state.) See attached map. 2-1-1 service is available to approximately 90% of the United States, and has proven itself as an invaluable resource in the aftermath of a disaster also. Other states have their own call centers that answer when you dial 2-1-1. So, 2-1-1 is a lifelong resource everyone needs to be aware of, no matter where you live.   

      2-1-1 is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year. If you or someone you know needs help, dial 2-1-1. In addition, consider posting a link on your company’s intranet or display 2-1-1 materials so that your employees, colleagues, and customers can benefit from this essential service if they are ever in need.


     FirstLink has been supported by various departments from the State of North Dakota, several United Ways from across the state, several cities and counties, foundations, and donors.

     FirstLink IS HERE FOR YOU will be there for all of you on Thursday, February 11 just like we are 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. When a person dials 2-1-1, their call will be answered by call specialists that will ask a series of questions to determine what services, information or resources are needed to help the caller.   Remember 2-1-1 is the number to call to give help (volunteer) and to get help.     


     FirstLink’s direct number to the helpline is 701-235-7335(SEEK) or just dial 2-1-1. You may also search resources on their website www.myfirstlink.org.