(WKBN) — On this week’s In-Depth segment, WKBN Community Affairs Director Dee Crawford sat down with Vince Brancaccio, CEO of Help Network in Northeast Ohio, regarding 211.
When it comes to needing help, there’s a variety of numbers to call, including 911, 211 and now 988.
Brancaccio explained how 211 can help.
“So 211 is mostly known for what is called information referral and support services. So someone who calls the number 211 in Ashtabula, in Mahoning, Trumbull, Columbiana and Lake counties… You’re going to get Help Network in Northeast Ohio. After hours and weekends, Lake and Ashtabula counties, you’re going to get a person who is trained and understands all the different resources in those counties,” Brancaccio explained.
Brancaccio said they have over 20 staff, full- and part-time, who staff the crisis hotline.
“Now we have an online database that we share. So if a person has access to the internet, they can go to helpnetworkneo.org, and all those resources are on that database,” Brancaccio added.
Those resources can include help with food, housing and even utilities. The person looking for help can search by their location.
Brancaccio also stressed the difference between 911, 211 and 988. In summary, 988 is the new suicide crisis hotline — that’s a national line. 211 is the information referral support number, and 911 is the emergency number.
Brancaccio said that during East Palestine derailment, they received over 950 calls.
“People who were looking for support in regards to the radius of how far the evacuation was and where people can stay,” he said.
Putting people at ease is a major role for the call takers.
“Our crisis hotline staff have extensive training on how to deal with these types of things,” Brancaccio said. “Our staff are trained to be empathetic, how to listen, but then they have access to an extensive resource directory with all types of support and resources in our communities.
Some needs are more challenging than others. Brancaccio said housing is one of the biggest concerns.
“We definitely have an affordable housing crisis in communities,” he said. “That is something we’re working with with people who are on the other side of that phone. People who come to our agency looking for that type of support.”
Another issue is the volume of calls.
“Right now, it’s staffing. We do have open positions in that program, and we are looking for people who would fit,” Brancaccio said.
You can learn more in the video above.