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United Way provides free, confidential referrals to social services with 211 program

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ROCKFORD (WREX) — If you need help from emergency services, you call 911, but when you call 211, the United Way of Rock River Valley responds with free confidential referrals to social services.

"If I'm having a crisis and I'm contemplating suicide, I can call 211 and get some answers," says Linda Sandquist, United Way of Rock River Valley Vice President.

Sandquist says the United Ways 211 service has been vital to hundreds of people in the stateline for more than 10 years. Potentially making the difference between life and death for many in the community.

"People have questions about social services and resources in the community, and it's not always easy to google them," says Sandquist.

No matter the situation, specialists with the program listen to callers, identify the problems they are having and connect those in need with resources

Between October and December 2019, more than 600 people called for help in Winnebago and Ogle counties.

The number one reason for calling: emotional support.

"Any minute of any day, over 350,000 people have access to a simple to remember phone number that they can call and get emotional support and referrals to services they might need," says Sandquist. "We're very, very connected to social media and things like that, and yet often times people need somebody to call and just talk to and talk through their problems."

According to statistics tracked by the program, a majority of calls during that time period in 2019 were placed by adult females from the 61103 zip code area.

The top social services being requested, besides emotional support: rent assistance, utility assistance and transportation.

Agencies like the Winnebago County Health Department rely on the 211 service to connect their clients to ones they don't offer.

"Maybe a mom comes in and she kind of expresses that she has some mental health issues and she wanted the resource for that," says Winnebago County Health Department breast feeding specialist Katie Chilton. "We don't have that information at the health department, we can give them that 211 number."

"The United Way is a bridge between people in the community and social services within the community," says Sandquist.

"We rely on the service to give people the most up-to-date information so they can get those local services right here in their community."

The United Way says it is able to offer the service through the support of it's donors.

Maggie Polsean

Maggie Polsean is an anchor for 13 News Today. Born and raised in Rockford, she is excited to be back home working for the station she grew up watching. Maggie is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and Christian Life high school in Rockford.

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