New data from Mass 2-1-1 shows 58 percent increase in calls over 2016

February 9, 2018

2017 data for 2-1-1 shows many callers looking for assistance with mental health and addiction issues

BOSTON –  New data from Mass 2-1-1, a free health and human service referral line funded by United Way, shows that there were 67,816 calls for assistance in the Greater Boston, Merrimack Valley, North Shore and South Shore regions of Massachusetts in 2017, a 58 percent increase over total calls in 2016.  Calls in 2017 overwhelmingly focused on accessing help for basic needs, including assistance with child care, housing and shelter, utility payments and food assistance, along with a significant increase in requests for support related to mental health and addiction issues..

Earlier this week, United Way hosted Lt. Governor Karyn Polito in a pre-2-1-1 Day Celebration where she read a proclamation from Governor Charlie Baker declaring Sunday, February 11 as 2-1-1 Day. Mass 2-1-1 is a public private partnership between the United Ways of Massachusetts and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In 2017, Mass 2-1-1 took over 171,133 calls statewide and responded to over 250,000 web site searches. Over 43,000 of the calls made to Mass 2-1-1 were people calling for their Mental Health/Suicide Prevention program Call2talk which is fully integrated with the statewide Mass 2-1-1 platform.

“Mass 2-1-1 is providing people with a person to call when they need support finding a resource, accessing a service or responding in a time of crisis,” said Michael Durkin, president of United Way of Massachusetts Bay & Merrimack Valley. “It is one, easy entry point for information about all of the state’s available resources and vital services for local individuals and families.   The data also provides community and state officials with critical insights into the needs that families are facing in our region.”

In the region served by United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, the largest number of calls and requests in 2017 were for assistance with child care (11,634 requests) , followed by housing and shelter (5,343 requests) utility payments (2,009 requests) and food assistance (1,422 requests).  Requests for support for mental health and addiction rose sharply, from 913 calls in 2016 to 4,755 calls in 2017, a 423% increase.

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.

So what happens when you call Mass2-1-1? 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 s 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.