As of Wednesday, Washington County residents can now dial 2-1-1 on any landline or mobile device to be referred to local services, from mental health specialists to help with paying for rent.
The program came from a $53,333 grant from the CareSource Foundation that sought out southeastern Ohio counties that are part of an under-resourced area for local services.
Launched by the Washington County United Way Wednesday, the service that already exists in 60 of Ohio's 88 counties is now available locally, where callers can dial the number and speak with a trained professional to be connected to more than 42 local charitable agencies, from food pantries to elder care services.
"I'm extremely proud to have this service for the residents of Washington County," said Diane Bruno, who serves on United Way's implementation team. "And this is a live database, and we want to encourage as many local agencies as possible to join."
Washington County's own 2-1-1 database includes up-to-date and detailed information about each of its registered agencies, and by making a call to the number, the representative identifies the caller's specific needs and outlines every applicable agency.
Callers can be connected 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year.
"2-1-1 can help reduce the number of non-emergency calls to 9-11 and allows local agencies to have an all-encompassing referral source," said Mary Ann Bush, executive director of United Way of Washington County.
That was one reason the program was implemented, as 1.5 million calls were made to the number in 2013 in Ohio. The service still redirects callers who are in an emergency situation to call 9-1-1.
Agencies on the register include everything from Washington-Morgan Community Action, the O'Neill Center, L&P Services and the Salvation Army, and the database is still growing.
By the end of the day Wednesday, officials said residents can also access the database through United Way of Washington County's website, which provides a search-by-category or search-by agency-outlet.
Anyone in Washington County with a cell phone that does not have a 740 area code can also access the service using a provided toll-free number.
"We found that this area is one of our most under-resourced areas," said Joan Alexander, community education representative for the CareSource Foundation.
Alexander stressed that the service is for anyone, not just for a particular age group, and a caller just needs to simply ask for help with rent, health, income support or even educational support.
Officials also noted that if someone either calls or uses the website database to look for a particular service and there is not one in the immediate Washington County area, United Way will target the specific area to try and find agencies to participate.
When a call is made to 2-1-1, which is a number specifically set aside by the Federal Communications Commission for human services across the country, the representative will ask the caller for both an age for statistics purposes and a zip code so that information can be aggregated based on the nearest available locations.