United Way
of Massachusetts Bay
and Merrimack Valley

Posted on February 10, 2017

Governor Baker Declares February 11 as Mass 2-1-1 Day

2016 data for 2-1-1 shows many callers looking for assistance with basic needs

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BOSTON –  New data from Mass 2-1-1, a free health and human service referral line funded by United Way, shows that there were 42,989 calls for assistance in the Greater Boston, Merrimack Valley, North Shore and South Shore regions of Massachusetts in 2016.  Calls in 2016 overwhelmingly focused on accessing help for basic needs, including assistance with child care, housing and shelter, utility payments, food assistance and employment and income help.

Governor Charlie Baker has declared February 11, 2017 as 2-1-1 Day in Massachusetts. . The Governor is committed to raising awareness of Mass 2-1-1, which receives more than 110,000 calls annually statewide and responds to over 250,000 web queries from people in the Commonwealth seeking resources.   February 11, also marks the 20thanniversary of 2-1-1 nationally, recognizing this free, user-friendly phone and online system that serves 90% of America’s population, and connects some 16 million people a year to critical resources, information and services.

“No family in crisis should ever be more than one phone call away from help,” said Michael Durkin, president of United Way of Massachusetts Bay & Merrimack Valley. “2-1-1 makes referrals to assistance easier because information about all of the state’s available resources can be accessed through one phone call.  The data also provides community and state officials with critical insights into the needs that families are facing in our region.”

People call or search 2-1-1 looking for resources to meet basic needs, like heating or utility assistance, shelter, emergency help, child care or to find the closest food pantry. They also call for everyday important non-emergency needs, such as developmental screening for a child, home health care for a relative, job training or free tax filing support.

In the regions served by United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, the largest number of calls and requests inn 2016 were for assistance with child care (7,209 requests) , followed by housing and shelter (4,265 requests) utility payments (1,525 requests), food assistance (1,186 requests) and help with employment and income (1,091 requests).

So what happens when you call Mass 2-1-1? When you dial 2-1-1 (a free call), the call is routed to a trained information and referral specialist, who helps identify your need(s), then refers you to relevant human services, health or education resources from a comprehensive database. For example, in the case of a worker who has recently been laid off or whose hours have been reduced, the 2-1-1 specialist may share information about unemployment benefits, job search options, food stamps, food pantries, mortgage or rent help, utility assistance, counseling and other available resources.

Recently, United Way’s Call2Talk Mental Health/Suicide Prevention line has become part of the state-wide 2-1-1 platform and can be accessed from anywhere in the Commonwealth by just dialing 2-1-1. The mission of Mass 2-1-1 is to ensure that Massachusetts residents get correct and helpful information the first time they call.  Mass 2-1-1 is a program of the United Ways of Massachusetts and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

The free service complements United Way’s work to increase economic opportunity for families in Massachusetts.  In addition to providing financial emergency assistance through its Family Fund, United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley funds high-performing community-based organizations providing job training and placements, budget coaching and financial education and affordable housing and homelessness prevention.

United Way’s network of Financial Stability Centers in Boston, Quincy, Lawrence, Chelsea and Lynn provides financial coaching and a range of housing and employment services to low-income individuals. Clients who accessed services over the past 18 months through these centers saw a 52 point credit score increase, and clients in our financial opportunity programs saw a $313 average increase in their monthly net income and an average net worth increase of almost $6,000. Over 520 people were placed in jobs.

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