Imagine the following scenarios:
• You have an aging parent living across the state. They’re struggling with daily tasks but want to stay in their home. Who do you call? What kind o help do you need?
• You have a family member who recently had a baby, and they are struggling to find mental health support. What are they eligible for? Where can they go?
• You are someone who never needed formal support before, but you lost your job, and you don’t have enough food for the week. Where do you go? When are they open?
Finding help for complex needs like shelter, substance use, mental health, or food access can be hard for many Mainers. Fortunately, there is a Maine-based program that can help.
211 Maine is a free, confidential resource that helps people find services that help them stay healthy, safe, and independent. This includes everything from food pantries and heating assistance to mental health services, support groups, utilities assistance, and more.
Simply by dialing 211 or texting your zip code to the number 898-211, people are connected to trained specialists here in Maine who can help them find a variety of needed services. This is a free, confidential service, and help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for people of all ages.
211 Maine is a national model. “While other 211s outsource their afterhours or weekends, whenever someone contacts 211 Maine, they connect to a live person here in the state.”
211 Maine became a statewide service in 2006. In 2022, the program received its one millionth call. The most common needs identified through referrals last year included: rent payment assistance, heating and utility assistance, health care, mental health and substance use resources, housing and shelter, relief check information, tax preparation assistance, and questions related to COVID-19.
“With the rising costs to meet basic needs like food and rent, it is more important now than ever for our community members to have an accessible place to find help when they need it,” said Shirar Patterson, 211 Maine Board of Directors President and President/CEO of Heart of Maine United Way. “211 Maine is that place for people to go when they don’t know where else to go.”
In addition to helping Mainers connect to the spectrum of health and human services, 211 continues its involvement in specific programs and projects, including serving as the centralized access point for the State’s new Help Me Grow system that helps families with children birth to eight get connected to needed behavioral health or educational services. Other initiatives include serving as Maine’s Opiate Helpline, Problem Gambling Helpline, answering questions about browntail moth caterpillars, COVID-19, and more.
It’s important for people to think of 211 as a tool. It’s a starting point to see what might be able to help. If someone isn’t able to get help from the information that 211 provides, we always encourage them to reach back out so we can look for other resources.
211 Maine is a collaborative effort of the United Ways of Maine, the State of Maine, and The Opportunity Alliance as the Contact Center Partner. For more information or to search the 211 directory, visit www.211Maine.org.