Lake County 211 system has fielded 100,000 requests for help in first two years

Lake County's 211 service, an information and referral hotline, has passed the milestone of serving 100,000 combined calls, texts and online requests for help, officials announced this week to mark the second anniversary of the system.

The free, multilingual, confidential 24-hour service was launched in September 2019 by United Way of Lake County in partnership with county government and community contributors.

Waukegan Township Supervisor Marc Jones said that in the first six months of 211's existence, the service helped people but was still somewhat of a secret. Then the pandemic hit.

"The pandemic facilitated a sharp increase in drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, depression and many other mental and emotional health challenges," Jones said.

Many people, regardless of where they lived, needed and benefitted from 211, he said.

Jones was moderator of a 90-minute virtual session Monday to mark the second anniversary.

Lake County residents can call 211 or text their ZIP code to 898211 at any time. The system's navigators are trained to listen, identify underlying issues and connect people to available resources.

Kristi Long, president and CEO of United Way of Lake County, said 211 has been a lifeline for tens of thousands of people in Lake County, including many who had never thought they would need help.

"The community has clearly embraced 211 as Lake County's one-stop shop for help, and awareness continues to grow," Long said.

In the second year, the system received 10,780 calls and texts, up from 6,760 calls and texts in year one.

Officials said 27% of calls and texts in year two received by the service took place outside normal business hours.

And there were 39,570 requests for help through from people in year two as well.

The top need has been housing and shelter, with people seeking help to pay their rent.

Others sought help getting access to food, health care, mental health services and addiction recovery resources, officials said.

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