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The 2-1-1 Initiative in Illinois

What is 2-1-1?

2-1-1 is an easy-to-remember, non-emergency telephone number that connects people with essential community information and services. 2-1-1 saves time and frustration through specialists who match callers to the right agency based on each caller's need.

The 24-hour line makes it easy for the public to navigate the maze of human service providers and help lines. All calls are free, anonymous and confidential.

Callers can get live assistance with needs such as:

Who can use 2-1-1?

In Illinois, a pilot program launched in February 2009 to make 2-1-1 available to residents in three parts of the state:

Since the three pilots received permanent approval, service has expanded to fully cover 20 counties in the state. Of Illinois’s 102 counties, 97 now have a service agreement with a 2-1-1 call center. Some of the state’s most populated states are among the remaining counties without a call center or service agreement. These are: Cook (which includes Chicago), DuPage, Grundy, Kakakee and Will counties. Currently, 19% of Illinois residents have 2-1-1 service. This number is expected to grow when the remaining counties set up service.

In 2013, 2-1-1 services answered more than 15.6 million calls nationwide. In Illinois, call centers logged 71,013 calls, more than three times as in 2010, when 20,590 calls were answered.
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United Way's Role

United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta launched 2-1-1 in 1997. Since then, United Ways across the country have partnered with the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems to promote 2-1-1.

United Way has a long-standing commitment to helping create information and referral services in the community. In the late 1990s, the United Way of Illinois began working with the Illinois Alliance of Information and Referral Systems to bring 2-1-1 to the state. Legislation passed in 2003 created the 2-1-1 Collaboration Board to guide the state's pilot program.

In 2009, Gov. Quinn signed the 2-1-1 Service Act into law at the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago. The law calls for a lead organization to plan and implement 2-1-1 across the state working under contract with the Department of Human Services. 2-1-1 Illinois, a non-profit organization, was selected as that lead entity in 2010.

What's next for 2-1-1?

The 2-1-1 Illinois Board selected PATH, one of the pilot call centers, to operate as the call center for 83 Illinois counties. PATH and 36 United Ways across the state worked together to find funding for call centers in those counties. Currently, 97 counties are covered by their own call center or another county’s call center. The ultimate goal, though, is to bring the service to all Illinoisans 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Coverage in Cook, DuPage, Grundy, Kakakee and Will counties is a top priority. Cook and DuPage counties are actively studying the service and each will make recommendation of how to proceed once their studies are complete.