2-1-1's future uncertain

PLATTSBURGH - The future of a regional 2-1-1 telephone information system is now in question.

John C. Bernardi, executive director of the United Way of the Adirondack Region, said funding for the system - which has been serving Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties since July 1, 2009 - officially ran out following the one-year anniversary of its establishment. However, the Hudson Valley region call center that operates the system is working with the local United Way - which serves as the coordinating entity for the system - to keep the program running until funding is secured.

"We are okay until the end of August because we've negotiated a continuation with the call center through then," said Bernardi, who serves as chairman of a steering committee established to oversee the system. "Beyond that, the future is uncertain."

"We're operating on fumes," added Bernardi. "[The call center] has been very reasonable. They want to obviously keep us up and running, but we're running on fumes."

The annual operating cost of the system is approximately $85,000 - a fraction of the estimated $350,000-$500,000 cost the United Way steering committee found it would take to establish and operate a new call center in the tri-county region.

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 was funded through a combination of public-private partnerships such as the United Way, major gifts and endowments and state funding.

However, state funding "is not showing any promise of being reinstated anytime soon," said Bernardi.

"We're sort of at a crossroads now with the program," said Bernardi, who added the steering committee is currently working to identify ways to sustain the program. "We're looking at some contractual opportunities and some other sources of revenue that we can utilize to sustain the program. Although we don't have anything concrete at this point."

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