Mental Health Association of North Dakota Launches 2-1-1 -- Statewide telephone number connects people with everyday information and urgent referrals

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Every hour of every day, someone in North Dakota needs essential services - emergency food and financial assistance, affordable mental health services or emergency suicide intervention. In many cases, people end up going without these necessary and readily available services because they do not know where to start. Now, North Dakota residents can dial one easy-to-remember, three-digit telephone number, 2-1-1, and receive toll-free, confidential, crisis intervention, information and referral services 24 hours-a-day, seven days per week.

Every hour of every day, someone needs essential services – emergency food and financial assistance, affordable mental health services or suicide intervention. In many cases, people end up going without these necessary and readily available services because they do not know where to start.

All that has changed for many North Dakota residents. Instead of searching through the often confusing maze of available services, people can now dial “2-1-1,” a universally recognizable number that makes a critical connection between callers and the appropriate community-based organizations and government agencies. “2-1-1 offers obvious advantages for people in need,” said Governor John Hoeven when the pilot project was launched in the Bismarck/Mandan area on February 11, 2004. “It’s easy to get help. If you need emergency shelter or help escaping an abusive relationship, knowing these three simple numbers can be the key to getting the assistance you need and getting back on your feet.”

"2-1-1 is a great example of how a partnership between government, non-profit organizations and the private sector can assist our citizens. With one easy-to-remember number, people can find information about a multitude of services and agencies, or receive instant help in a crisis," said Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem.

But 2-1-1 is for everyone, not just people and communities in crisis. You can use it any time. If you’re new to the area and are trying to locate employment services, day care, transportation, etc., 2-1-1 can connect you. In these days of terrorism alerts, it’s important to think of 2-1-1 as a crisis response tool for the entire community, as well. 2-1-1 can be intregal to the community’s response to a widespread crisis like an attack, flood, tornado, fire or other tragedy. Businesses, such as hotels, hospitals, etc., that have specialized internal telephone systems may need to reprogram their equipment so that their employees and clients are able to use the 2-1-1 service.

Since the initial launch in February, additional territory has been gradually included into the service area. On August 1, 2004, the final implementation phase was completed and the program became available statewide “We had heard from 2-1-1 providers in other parts of the country that one of the biggest challenges in getting their programs up & running was working with the telecommunications companies,” states the program’s administrator, Deanna Dailey. “Here in North Dakota, we found the telecommunication providers wonderful to work with – they understood what had to be done, why it had to be done, and simply did it.” Cellular customers, Minnesota residents and others who may not be able to use 2-1-1 (some internal telephone systems may require programming changes) can continue to receive crisis intervention, information and referral services through the toll-free HELP-LINE. That number is 800-472-2911.

The 2-1-1 dialing code was assigned by the FCC for health and human service information and referral in July of 2000. To date, approximately 32% of Americans have access to 2-1-1, thanks to the efforts of the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS) and the United Way of America. Bipartisan federal legislation has also recently been introduced that would provide for $200 million in funding for 2-1-1 programs nationwide.

The Mental Health Association in North Dakota has been providing the HELP-LINE service for over 33 years. In September of 2003, they were awarded the official designation by the North Dakota Public Service Commission to provide 2-1-1 services statewide. The United Way agencies throughout North Dakota have been very supportive of the efforts of the Mental Health Association in North Dakota in the implementation of the 2-1-1 program, both financially and collaboratively. Their support has been invaluable in helping to organize stakeholders, addressing their issues and ensuring a smooth transition to an efficient and professional statewide 2-1-1 service.

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Katie Wohlman
H2M
701-237-4180
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