Thursday, February 7, 2013
For 10 years, people like Donna Lynch have called 2-1-1 Hotline when they’ve needed a resource in the community or just a listening ear.
Suffering from depression and other mental illness, Lynch struggled with suicidal thoughts for years, kept alive by calls to the hotline. Through 2-1-1 Hotline, she was able to get the mental health services she needed. Today, Lynch helps others connect with the mental health services they need. Lynch says she might have given up on several occasions if not for the support of 2-1-1 Hotline.
The free, confidential, 24/7 community resource turns 10 years old on Feb. 11. Intensively-trained 2-1-1 staff and volunteers listen with respect and compassion to callers’ problems, support them through crises, connect them with community resources and help them sort things out. 2-1-1 Hotline also connects callers who want to donate their time with a comprehensive database of volunteer opportunities.
Trident United Way’s 2-1-1 Hotline is on the cutting-edge of hotlines nationwide. It has begun piloting “Chat,” whereby people in need can contact the service via computer chat without ever having to talk. “Chat is the preferred method of communication, even in a crisis, for many younger people,” said Matthew Grason, the chat coordinator.
In addition, calls to Darkness to Light are answered by counselors for 2-1-1 Hotline. So are after-hours calls to Charleston County Department of Social Services, Berkeley County Mental Health and several national suicide hotlines. Trident United Way’s 2-1-1 Hotline works with other 2-1-1 services around the state, so that no call is ever left unanswered.
Trident United Way’s information and referral service, Hotline and the Volunteer Center, came together in 2003 once the FCC made the 2-1-1 phone number available. In its first year, 2-1-1 Hotline handled 26,000 calls. That number has reached 50,000 calls annually as more people learn about the service.
“We launched 2-1-1 Hotline on 2/11 to remind everyone that our community’s resources are at your fingertips simply by dialing 2-1-1,” said Charlotte Anderson, vice president of 2-1-1 services at Trident United Way. “People can also visit tuw.org and do their own search,” she said.
Anderson has worked for the hotline for more than 30 years and has been its director for more than 25, sheparding it from a crisis line to its current comprehensive crisis, information and referral service.
Most people calling 2-1-1 need food, clothing or housing, but the variety of needs is staggering. People call looking for legal help, information on the flu, tax preparation services, and almost anything else you can imagine. Many callers just need a safe place to unburden themselves of their troubles.
2-1-1 Hotline has made life easier for hospitals, TV stations, libraries, newspapers, municipal offices, non-profit agencies and other organizations that people call looking for information about community resources. Many callers are referred to 2-1-1 Hotline by these organizations.