Lake County 211 system shows measurable results in first year

It took awhile to get 211 service up and running, but after a year in operation, those involved in Lake County's system say the effect has been measurable.

"We may be late to the party but are making a tremendous impact in just one year," said Marc Jones, director of Waukegan Township's Eddie Washington Center.

Jones was the host and moderator of a 90-minute virtual session Tuesday to mark the anniversary of Lake County 211, a system that connects individuals and families with essential health and human services.

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

In the first year, the system received 6,760 calls and texts and logged 49,663 website visits for a combined 56,423 connections, officials said. Since March, 53% of the calls and texts have been COVID-19 related.

The system is comprised of trained specialists who connect people with a range of resources, including housing and shelter, food, utility assistance, mental health services, addiction support and rehabilitation, crisis counseling, employment support, and other areas.

"Now, our community knows what 211 is and they can access the help they need," said Kristi Long, president and CEO of United Way Lake County. Officials said calls were received from every ZIP code in Lake County.

By far, assistance most often was sought for housing and shelter, which was the top category month to month, according to Julie Gordon, a United Way board member.

Lake County's COVID housing relief program was coordinated through 211 and served 369 households, said Brenda O'Connell, the county's acting community development administrator.

Assistance for utilities and food were second and third overall.

Sam Johnson-Maurello, director of behavioral health with the Lake County Health Department, said the complete impact of COVID-19-related stress and anxiety won't be known for a long time. However, virtual methods have been useful in connecting, he added.

"I think there's more accessibility now than there ever was before," he said. "211 is a great way to access that."


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