In July 2000 the Federal Communications Commission assigned the three-digit dialing code 2-1-1 for the exclusive purpose of providing widespread access to community information and referral services. Once described as "elegant in its simplicity," 2-1-1 is an easy to remember phone number linking callers in need to available health and human service programs. Currently, there are 2-1-1 systems operating in 46 states reaching roughly more than 240 million Americans or approximately 80% of the US population.
Locating basic resources such as food, shelter, employment, or health care may mean calling dozens of phone numbers, then struggling through a maze of agencies and services to make the right connections.
During the devastating flood in Earlimart, CA and debilitating freezes of 1990 and 1999, it became evident that a centralized clearing house for information and referral during disasters in Tulare County was urgently needed. In response to those needs, as well as to the continuing need for a central source of up-to-date information, United Way of Tulare County (UWTC) expanded its existing information and referral system by establishing FIRST CALL (1-800-283-9323) in 2001.
Based on its experience with FIRST CALL it was logical for UWTC to explore transitioning into a 2-1-1 system. With the support of UWTC’s Board of Directors, First 5 Tulare County and Tulare County Health and Human Services Agency, it was decided that UWTC would begin the process of establishing 2-1-1 Tulare County.
In January 2009, UWTC established a 2-1-1 Advisory Committee composed of local non-profits, the private business sector, county government agencies, and local city governments. Planning milestones were developed and used as the framework to begin the process of establishing a 2-1-1 system in Tulare County.
In March 2009, the Tulare County Board of Supervisors affirmed UWTC as the lead organization for 2-1-1 in Tulare County. UWTC has worked on establishing all standards set by the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS). Calls are taken twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, three hundred sixty-five days a year by Interface Children Family Services and use iCarol database.
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