211 helpline a success

Lawton_It has been a year since Lawton installed the area's 211 helpline.  It's a call center you can dial to get handy information when you're in a bind or a crisis.  In just one year the county feels like it has made a huge difference.

211 is just what Edwina Reddick had hoped for - and more.  She is the coordinator of the Southwest Oklahoma 211 Helpline.  It covers ten counties, and in just one year, the call center has received 6,500 calls from people who need help.  About 5,000 of the calls were from Comanche County.

Reddick and volunteers man the phones 24 hours per day.  When a person calls into the 211 database, it pulls up more than 3,000 agencies that may be of help to the caller.  Services for counseling, utilities, food, shelter, and healthcare are among the many organizations in the database.

Reddick says 211 cuts down on the multiple calls it may take to find the help a person really needs.  "On average, a person will make at least eight calls before they find who they need," she says.  But, with 211, when a caller needs help, volunteers are able to pull up information about an agency most suitable to the situation, give information about the agency, and give a contact phone number.

Reddick says it only takes dialing three easy number to get thousands of answers.  Soon, 211 will be statewide in Oklahoma.  Anywhere you go, you'll be able to dial 211 and get assistance anywhere in the state.  The number goes into effect across Oklahoma in April.

Reddick says there are a lot of service agencies that aren't in their database, though.  She encourages any agency wishing to add itself to the database to call them and add their information.  211 also needs volunteers to answer the helpline.  Dial 211 to add, or update your agency information, or to volunteer.