Help is on the way

New 211 directory will debut Sept. 1


As Hurricane Charley ripped through Tampa, Fla. Recently, about 500 residents an hour called a free and confidential line seeking resources to help rebuild their dreams.

During a string of wildfires in Larimer County last summer, a number of residents also dialed the number in hopes of gaining access to health and human service organizations.

Soon the universally recognized 211 telephone number -- which is designed as the first step to help residents sift through a maze of resources -- will be available to residents of Moffat and Routt counties.

Starting Sept. 1, the two counties will be connected to a call center in Larimer County that will link up residents with local assistance options.

"This can be a resource for pretty much anyone in the public," said Linda Ekblad, a 211 coordinator for a multi-county region in Colorado.

"It can be a help for families who need to find rent assistance, for people looking for support groups or for a person who is the victim of domestic violence looking to get out of a relationship," Ekblad said, illustrating examples of what calling 211 can offer.

Leaders in Moffat and Routt counties have been gathering information for about two years in preparation to go online with 211. The service is active in 26 states and about 32 percent of the nation's population is able to access the number.

Larimer County is one of the state's pilot projects and its organizers plan to introduce the service to state's remaining counties in upcoming years.

The number should offer assistance to residents and organizations to hook people up with necessary services or connect people with organizations where they can volunteer, said Audrey Danner of Yampa Valley Partners.

"It is an easy to remember telephone number where you can talk to a trained, knowledge person with access to accurate information about where to go for local help and donating," she said. "Put simply, FirstCall 211 is the number to dial if you need help or want to help."

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