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United Way Adds Texting Option For Human Services 211 Helpline

The United Way of the Plains
The United Way of the Plains added a texting option to its 211 information and referral service.

Finding health and human services help in Kansas is now as easy as sending a text. The United Way of the Plains launched a new texting option for its 211 information helpline.

Here is how it works: all you need to do is send a text to 898211 with your zip code. A call center operator will answer the text and get more details about the situation.

“It might be needing to know where the food pantries are that are open today in their community, where they could get some free diapers or it may be that they need marriage counseling,” says United Way’s 211 Call Center Coordinator Heather Pierce.

A text reply will come with contact information for nonprofits and government agencies in your area that might be able to help.

Pierce says they added the texting option to make the information and referral service as accessible as possible.

“It may remove some barriers for persons who are hard of hearing or deaf. Or, some people have anxiety about talking on the phone and this just provides another avenue that they can reach out to us,” Pierce says.

The 211 info service connects people with health and human services for assistance with elder care, emergency shelter, tutoring, legal aid, youth programs and more.

The United Way has provided a 24/7 free and confidential statewide phone service and website since 2006.

The United Way says it handles about 50,000 calls and 28,000 online searches for assistance each year. During disasters, 211 also provides important public information that frees up 911 to handle life-or-death emergencies.

Pierce says there is often a misconception that 211 is for low-income people despite being a service for anyone looking for help.

“So if someone is looking for help or if you have a neighbor, or a cousin or a friend, reach out to us, give us a call, text us or visit our website and we will happy to connect you to the services that might meet that need,” Pierce says.

Follow Deborah Shaar on Twitter @deborahshaar. To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.