The corner domes of the Miami County Courthouse are being repainted.

An area county is one of the state’s last without this helpline. That could change soon.

That could change within the next year or so as the United Way of Miami County and others look to start the phone referral system.

United Way leaders talked with the county commissioners Nov. 28, asking for a letter of support and, if legally possible, financial backing to help with fundraising for a 211 system.

Miami County is one of fewer than 20 counties in the state without 211 service and the largest, the United Way’s CEO Sean Ford, Chief Financial Officer Richard Bender and board member Andrew Wannemacher told commissioners.

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The systems provide people information for basic needs such as shelter, food, veterans assistance, health care, senior services, infant mortality prevention and domestic violence.

Today, those seeking information may have to make several calls for assistance, Bender said. Some of those calls go to the countywide Communication Center, which handles dispatch for police, fire and emergency medical services.

United Way organizations coordinate many of the 211 systems. Miami County’s United Way organizations had talked for years about a service. The project gained momentum when the United Ways started talking about merging, which occurred this summer.

The proposed plan includes contracting for the service with a call center. Three proposals were received. The United Way of Cleveland submitted a proposal that “made us feel really good about this project and what we can do with the program,” Ford said.

The staffing includes social workers who “will get to the heart of the problem” of the caller, he said. Some centers also offer service via text and email.

When the 211 system exploration first was discussed with commissioners in 2017, Bender said the United Way of Ohio had money to help with start-up and initial costs. “That offer is off the table” ending the agency’s “dream of having a nest egg,” he said.

The yearly cost is estimated at about $30,000 the first year, followed by about $23,000 in subsequent years.

Efforts are beginning to secure funding commitments from businesses and others. The United Way of Miami County has money in its budget for the project but that use would take away from the other efforts, Bender said. Hopes are to obtain commitments for up to five years of funding to ensure service sustainability.

Commission President John “Bud” O’Brien said he was initially skeptical about the program but now agrees “this is something Miami County needs.” Commissioners Greg Simmons and Jack Evans agreed.

For more information on the 211 system proposal, contact Ford at 937-778-6786.

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