Legislative preview series: Officials say 2-1-1 help line funding vital

Sonny Long

Dec. 27, 2012 at 6:27 a.m.
Updated Dec. 28, 2012 at 6:28 a.m.

While issues like public education, health and economic development are important to nonprofit organizations, funding is always high on agencies' legislative wish lists.

Of particular concern for the United Way of Texas is continued funding of the 2-1-1 service administered locally by the Area Agency on Aging.

2-1-1 is funded through several resources, including United Ways and other nonprofits, foundations, businesses and state and local governments.

The partnerships are coordinated by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

"2-1-1 is an essential part of our service delivery system here in Victoria County," said Clifford Grimes, executive director of the United Way of Victoria County.

While there is no particular bill before the Texas Legislature addressing funding of the 2-1-1 system, State Sen. Glenn Hegar also knows the value of the 2-1-1 system.

"To the extent they know of it and use it, I would certainly think that the 2-1-1 Texas partnership is beneficial to my rural constituents, many of whom still do not have Internet access," he said.

"Giving Texans easy access to a directory of our state agencies and help in locating the appropriate service or resource should increase efficiency for both parties, a goal I certainly support."

Hegar's colleague in the state legislature, Rep. Geanie Morrison, agrees.

"I support funding for the public/private partnership of 2-1-1 Texas. I believe 2-1-1 Texas is an important clearinghouse for Texans to easily access essential services," Morrison said.

"Access to 2-1-1 Texas also supports the Baby Moses law that I proposed and that passed in 1999 by providing desperate mothers information about a responsible alternative to newborn abandonment," he said.

2-1-1 offers information on a broad range of other services, including rent assistance, food banks, affordable housing, health resources, child care, after-school programs, elderly care, financial literacy and job training programs.

In times of disaster, 2-1-1 also has proven to be an effective partner in supporting disaster operations, according to the United Way website.

Specialists at 2-1-1 centers facilitate thousands of volunteer hours and direct donors to locations where their gifts may be most needed and appropriate.

Those who work with the 2-1-1 system see its importance on a daily basis.

"2-1-1 is essential to the community in numerous ways. Individuals who call 2-1-1 represent different populations and circumstances," said Johanna Rohan, local 2-1-1 coordinator.

"There are many people in the community that find themselves in situations that they never expected to find themselves. They may never have expected not to be able to pay their light bill or buy food for their family," Rohan said.

"These people have never had to ask for help before. If they call 2-1-1, they will be able get the information they need in order to help them through their situation, whatever that might be," she said.

Rohan said the 2-1-1 system also serves as a resource for many nonprofit agencies that are able to obtain data about the calls in order to get more funding for the agency.

"Also, many times county, state and even federal agencies will request data about the types of calls we get and from where those calls come from," Rohan said. "The information that we can give them assists in funding decisions, which ultimately will affect every citizen in our area."

Other legislative preview stories:

Cities to watch for unfunded mandates in 2013 session

Entertainment, downtown groups expect little change in legislative session

Officials say 2-1-1 help line funding vital

Texas Senate to consider law that bans texting and driving

Proposed bill could shake up criminal court procedure



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