More than a million Arizonans received invaluable assistance last year from an organization many have never even heard of, 211 Arizona.
Folks at 211 Arizona are the people to call when life hits a bump in the road and we don't know where to turn.
When it comes to information and referrals for health and human service, this is the place that's only three digits, or an app click away from a lifeline. At the call center in central Phoenix, six trained, bilingual, call specialists handle a myriad of requests from across Arizona.
"Shelter calls, people seeking shelter--families or singles, domestic violence callers," CEO of Community Information and Referral Services (CIR), Catherine Rea said. "Also food, health services, volunteers."
From one of the cubicles that makes up 211 Arizona, Kim Eisenecher is working as a volunteer. "My name is Kim, and I'm calling from 211 Arizona..." can be heard just above the office buzz. About a year and a half ago, new to Arizona, her life took a turn. She reached out for one of those 211 Arizona lifelines.
"They were extremely helpful, and understood what I was going through," Eisenecher said. "They were very uplifting when I called, and gave me multiple numbers to call."
211 Arizona staff are able to cut through the maze of social services available to callers and get them on the right track quickly.
How much longer this incredibly valuable resource will be available is tough to say, because unlike a service like 911 there is no statewide funding source that goes into 211.
Limited funds to a small non-profit means Catherine Rea has to compete against the very agencies she's sending clients to for assistance. A catch-22 situation she feels the legislature needs to address next month.
"We need to be pulled out of that competition, so to speak, and be fully funded as a statewide public service that we are," Rea said.
Rea and her team will be at the Arizona legislature lobbying for a $1 million appropriation. She says 'a penny' added to Arizona phone service would cover the cost of making 211 Arizona a 24/7, fully staffed operation.
More information on 211: 211arizona.org.