Tri-county 2-1-1 system now available

PLATTSBURGH - The new regional 2-1-1 telephone system is now on-line after nearly three years of planning and development.

During a press conference held June 30, John C. Bernardi, executive director of the United Way of Clinton and Essex Counties, stated the system is now available for use in Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties.

The system operates similar to the 9-1-1 emergency and 4-1-1 information systems, said Bernardi, allowing callers to dial - at no cost - a three-digit number to be connected with health and human service providers in the tri-county area. The service, which is accessible by dialing 2-1-1 from a cellular or landline phone, will connect callers with a central call center where an operator is available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week. The operator is then able to refer the caller to services such as childcare, mental health professionals, food pantries and government assistance programs.

During off hours, a recording will greet callers with directions to call back during regular business hours.

"The service is really there to provide callers with the information that they need to access services that are available in our region and close to their home," explained Bernardi, who served as chairman of a steering committee established by the United Way for the system's development.

When the committee first began examining how the system would be established, various models and prototypes of programs were considered. The committee ultimately decided to contract with an existing call center in the Hudson Valley region to develop and operate the service. The annual operating cost of the system is approximately $85,000 - a fraction of the estimated $350,000-$500,000 cost the committee found it would take to establish and operate a new call center here.

The cost of planning and developing the system was funded by a combination of local in-kind resources and through 2-1-1 New York, the organization which facilitates the implementation of 2-1-1 systems. The overall cost to operate the system is being funded through a combination of public-private partnerships such as the United Way, major gifts and endowments and state funding.

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