DuPage County's new 211 help line launching today

DuPage County today will activate a 24-hour hotline that will connect callers to a host of social services.

The 211 system will give people in DuPage an easy-to-remember number to call for help accessing mental health counseling, housing, addiction support, supplemental food programs, child care and other assistance.

"It's just going to open up a whole new world of ways we can help our residents and get them to the help they need," said Julie Renehan, chair of the county board's health and human services committee.

The county's free, confidential hotline will expand 211 coverage in the Chicago area. As of this past February, Lake County's 211 service had fielded more than 125,000 phone calls, texts and online requests since its inception in 2019. Kane County also launched 211 with United Way in 2018. Nationally, the 211 network handled more than 19.7 million calls last year, according to United Way.

"We've seen other counties do it so well over the years, but we really didn't have the funding for it," Renehan said.

DuPage is now able to implement 211 with federal pandemic relief funds. County board members earmarked $1.6 million in American Rescue Plan dollars to set up and operate the system. The county is using the money to add two information and referral specialists as well as one manager in its community services department; to make upgrades to the department's database and phone system; and to contract with the Addison Consolidated Dispatch Center to answer calls during evening and weekend hours.

"Right now, we have a very committed and good online presence, and we have in-person meetings," Renehan said. "People can come for intake and referral to our social services groups or different providers around the county. But this just really improves access, improves immediacy."

Rather than seeking out resources in person, people can simply pick up the phone to speak with a 211 operator - at any time of day. Translation will be available for non-English speakers.

"You can call in the middle of the night, and maybe you're worried about something," Renehan said. "And there's somebody there who's going to be able to kind of navigate you through the issue, determine really what it is you need."

People can dial 211 for help navigating affordable housing options. Veterans can talk to a 211 specialist about job training and resume writing. Seniors can call 211 for help with transportation.

"So many times, residents don't understand how many social service networks are out there that can provide help to them or they think maybe they don't qualify," Renehan said.

DuPage and Addison officials are scheduled to hold a news conference today to mark the launch of 211. The county board approved a one-year, $190,218 contract with the village for the Addison Consolidated Dispatch Center to process 211 calls on behalf of the DuPage community services department on nights and weekends.

People also can go online to to search a database of health and social service providers.

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