211: Helping Those Who Need Help & Those Who Help Those Who Need Help

We’re all familiar with 911 as the number to call for emergency services, but what about the other “one-ones?”  It turns out there are seven more in addition to 911:

  • 811:  Contacts utility location services for when you need to find utility lines on your property
  • 711:  Connects to a text-to-speech call service for the hearing or speech impaired
  • 611:  Contacts your phone service provider
  • 511:  Provides information on traffic conditions
  • 411:  Contacts directory assistance for finding phone numbers and addresses
  • 311:  Contacts non-emergency municipal services for reporting violations or public safety concerns
  • 211:  Connects you to community information and referral services

For those who are in need, or who serve those in need (including nurses, dentists, pharmacists, and teachers), 211 can be a valuable tool for finding low- or no-cost community services.  It can assist people with finding housing, paying bills, or obtaining food, transportation, employment, health services, legal services, and so forth.  For example, our own Roseman University College of Dental Medicine is listed with 211 as a low-cost provider of dental services to those in need.

How is using 211 different than just “Googling it?”

Boo Reiser and Caitlin Schneider from the United Way of Salt Lake addressed that question in a recent presentation on 211 at the South Jordan campus of Roseman University.  Although the internet seemingly contains any information you’d ever need, finding it requires that you know a) specifically what you’re looking for and b) how to search for it.  Studies on using internet search engines have shown that a certain baseline degree of knowledge about a topic is required to be able to effectively search that topic (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ipm.2015.05.004). Sometimes it takes a good deal of time and thought just to uncover the terms that would allow a proper search in a new or unfamiliar area.  This process can be overwhelming for someone who is desperate due to lack of time, health, or basic necessities.

A major strength of using the 211 phone or texting service is that it connects to a real person who can help get to the source of the problem, discuss potential solutions, and follow up to see if needs were addressed. They can similarly support a faculty mentor or healthcare professional who is seeking services for someone else. Take a moment to check out 211utah.org or www.nevada211.org.  How could you see using 211 in your realm of responsibility?

If you would like to contribute to The Faculty Development Blog, please contact Tyler Rose at trose@roseman.edu.

Tyler Rose, PhD
Associate Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences
Roseman University of Health Sciences College of Pharmacy