United Way to launch human services 211 hotline in Lake County this spring

A telephone hotline that will connect people experiencing personal crises with health services or other resources will launch in Lake County next spring.

Organized by the United Way of Lake County, the 211 service is designed to help people struggling with homelessness, hunger, unemployment and other problems.

"(It's) personal emergency assistance," said Lake County Board member Steve Carlson, a Gurnee-area Republican who leads the panel's health and community services committee and has championed the program.

The county board on Tuesday agreed to give United Way an $80,000 grant for the program. That, combined with other pledges, gives the effort enough cash to fund the first year's operations.

The United Way runs 211 centers across the country and in Canada, assisting more than 14 million people annually, according to

Callers' most common issues include housing, legal matters, public safety and food, said United Way of Lake County representative Deanna Olmem.

Olmem said 211 is a simple number for people to remember, like 911 for emergency services or 311 for city services in Chicago.

Live operators respond to each call. All calls are free and confidential.

Calls from Lake County will be fielded by a United Way center in Florida that already provides 211 assistance, Olmem said. The employees will use a United Way of Lake County website,, to direct people to the right services.

Carlson is excited about the effort and proud of the county's contribution, which will come from video gambling revenue.

"This will change lives," he said. "This will save lives."

Gurnee, Libertyville Township, Vernon Township and Warren Township are among the other public agencies supporting the program.

Corporate pledges have come from companies including AT&T, BMO Harris Bank and Comcast.

Illinois is one of only two states that doesn't have significant 211 coverage. The service is available in the Rockford area and in many downstate communities, Olmem said, but McHenry and Kane counties are the only Chicago-area counties offering the program now.

Other Illinois communities are considering implementing 211 programs, she said.

Need help? Kane County 211 service will offer direction

Lake County Townships Come Together To Invest in 2-1-1

Gurnee pledges $10,000 to support United Way's proposed 2-1-1 service

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