On the road, at work or home, help is as close as a phone, if you have a police, fire, or medical emergency. But what about those "life-emergencies" that 9-1-1 systems cannot handle? That's where 2-1-1 comes in.
Whenever someone at Centerpoint picks up the phone, they're helping a caller in need. Director Henry Bass says, "i have a passion for what i do". Bass made a few bad decisions years ago and found himself homeless. "No one knows today or tomorrow what their situation is going to be". That's why Bass is happy to be a part of the federal 2-1-1 program. It's a toll free number that rings a referral service for people who need help; and Centerpoint will be northwest Louisiana's call-center.
Centerpoint currently takes more than 2,000 calls every month, and when the 2-1-1 program is in place it expects more calls, but also, more help Centerpoint will hire 12 people to man the phones 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They'll serve people in nine parishes who need a battered women's home or even people recently released from jail. Centerpoint's Luease Graham says, "they want to know where they can go until they get on their feet".
Bass estimates 2-1-1 will get 4,000 calls a month--so Centerpoint will recruit more agencies to provide services. Bass says interested agencies ask him how to raise more money, and Bass gives them pointers. However, he says, "i don't care how much money you raise, it'll never be enough. But bass knows first hand the help a service like 2-1-1 could provide could turn someone's life around.
The Public Service Commission is working with legislators to figure out how to pay for the 2-1-1 service. Northwest Louisiana's service should be partially up and running by the end of the year.