FirstCall 2-1-1 points people in right direction for assistance

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Those who need help or want to make a donation have an easier way to find what they're looking for.

FirstCall 2-1-1 is a health and human services referral system that is in place in Craig.

Anyone may dial 2-1-1 to find an agency near them that provides services they need, or agencies to which they wish to donate.

"Instead of making 12 calls to find one resource, you can make one phone call to find 12,"program director Linda Ekblad said.

This free service invites callers to speak with trained referral specialists about their needs.

The specialist then accesses the database and recommends agencies in the caller's area that could assist them.

"One of the No. 1 reasons people don't get help is they don't know where to go," Ekblad said.

"We point them in the right direction."

Eighty percent of Colorado has access to 2-1-1, and the program plans to expand its coverage until it is statewide. Craig's call center is based in Fort Collins.

FirstCall 2-1-1 is a nationwide program that is available in 28 states.

The service offers translators in as many as 100 languages. Canada, Australia and South Africa also have started 2-1-1 service systems.

"There is a much bigger picture with 2-1-1 as well," Ekblad said. "It would be nice to travel somewhere and have that service be available."

Ekblad said she tries to keep-up-to-date on what services are available in each town in her coverage area.

"We make every effort in each community to research what's available there," she said.

She estimated that she spends one week a month in Craig making sure she's on top of the agencies in operation here.

The funding for her to do that primarily comes from the Moffat County United Way.

The money from the agency also helps cover marketing material and some overhead costs for the office.

"I think once (people) start using (2-1-1), I think they'll see what a huge benefit it is," United Way Director Corrie Scott said.

United Way is holding its annual fund-raising campaign, which ends Friday.

This year's goal is $320,000. Tax-deductible contributions may be made by calling the agency at 824-6222.

Not all cellular phone companies allow their customers to access FirstCall.

Those interested may also call (866) 485-0211 toll free if 2-1-1 does not work on their phones.

Michelle Perry can be reached at 824-7031 or mperry@craigdailypress.com.

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