Free West Virginia referral service faces financial concerns amid budget cuts

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If you have an emergency you call 911. If you want to check traffic you call 511. But if you want to get information about social services you call 211. 

The 211 service is facing some financial set backs. 

“We have folks that are having needs they’ve never had to deal with before and they don’t have a clue where to start this process,” said Barbara Mallory, Director of Information and Referral for the Charleston United Way. “So when they call us we try to be the calm reassuring voice on the other end of the phone.” 

As part of her job Mallory answers 211 calls for six West Virginia counties. The service is statewide and helps connect people to the help they need. 

She said most of the time when people contact them it is for help with utilities. Sometimes callers need help finding a food bank or a shetler. Recently following the devastating floods in West Virginia people called 211 to get connected to resources. But a cut in the amount of funding the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources is giving to the 211 program is making it difficult to meet their annual budget. 

“I think it has been more of a nervous ripple that we are feeling,” Mallory said. “We haven’t felt a bump in services at all. We’ve all continued to do what we passionately believe in and we will continue to do that some way. But we are concerned, very concerned that 211 may not survive and that is scary.” 

The 211 program uses money for things like a salary for a statewide director, software to build their list of resources, insurance and things like pamphlets and training. Mallory said if the program is lost it could have a major impact on some of the area’s most vulnerable. 

“They may have to find those numbers on their own. And they are going to miss out on some of the resources that are out there,” she said. 

If you need help you can call 211. You can also reach out online at www.wv211.org or phone apps are also available at your Android or IPhone app stores. Just search for WV211. 

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