2-1-1 working in Aroostook

15 years ago
By Scott Mitchell Johnson
Staff Writer

    PRESQUE ISLE – Officials with 2-1-1 Maine say the easy-to-remember phone number and Web site (www.211maine.org), which connects individuals to important information and resources, are working very well in Aroostook County.     “We noticed that people really started to learn about 2-1-1 in this area at the time of the recent flood in the St. John Valley,” said Michelle Cyr, 2-1-1 resource coordinator. “Flood victims were directed to call 2-1-1 or go directly online and were given instructions on how to proceed in finding important resources needed to get them through the flood crisis.”
    Information for many “800” numbers is available through the service so that a person only needs to call one number and be referred to several information systems.
    “Whether you need to find the right self help group, heating assistance programs or food pantries, 2-1-1 Maine’s 24-hour call specialists can help you,” Cyr said. “We’re getting a lot of calls from people inquiring about heating assistance and food pantries. With winter fast approaching, people are concerned about those things.”
    2-1-1 includes a statewide directory of more than 9,000 resources including agency services and support groups. Information regarding everything from counseling, heating assistance, housing, domestic violence programs, elder care, legal assistance, suicide prevention, child care and voting information can be accessed through the information line.
    “Instead of making several phone calls,” said Cyr, “you make this one phone call, and the people in the call center in Portland are trained, and they can tell you – based on your zip code – where the services are located in your area that you are looking for. What’s great is you talk to a real person.”
    2-1-1 Maine is part of a national movement to centralize and streamline access to health and human service information and resources. The first 2-1-1 call center was initiated by United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta in 1997. Connecticut followed with a statewide system in 1998. In July 2000, the Federal Communications Commission approved 2-1-1 nationally for health and human services information and referral. 2-1-1 Maine was the 15th state to have a statewide service when they launched in July of 2006 through a collaborative effort by Gov. John E. Baldacci, the 10 United Ways of Maine and YAI (Youth Alternatives Ingraham).
    Also available with 2-1-1 Maine is the Prescription Assistance Pilot Project for Aroostook County. At this time, the pilot program is only available to residents of Aroostook County, but its popularity is growing rapidly. Funded by a grant from Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the pilot program will make it easier to get connected to various prescription assistance resources. This collaborative effort is proving to be a successful project and bringing much-needed help to residents.
    Commercials are presently running on WAGM-TV promoting the Prescription Assistance Pilot Project.
    “Right now the service is only offered in Aroostook County,” said Cyr. “If someone from Presque Isle, for example, calls 2-1-1 and asks about the program, they would give you the names of the appropriate resources in your area including pharmacies that have decided to go on board with the project. The pharmacies involved give discounts on certain prescriptions, so that’s another worthwhile service to county residents. There are also resources that can assist you with completing an application to obtain free or reduced cost prescriptions from the pharmaceutical company.”
    The 2-1-1 call center is now accessible statewide and from cell phones and phone service provided by Internet carriers.
    “Things are going well,” said Cyr. “2-1-1 is working in Aroostook County. We encourage people to utilize this great service to help get them connected to the services and resources they need.”