Ohio United Ways seek state funding

Free, confidential 211 service provides Ohio residents with 24/7/365 access to a wide range of essential community resources and services

United Way of Greater Cincinnati has joined a coalition of Ohio United Way leaders to meet with lawmakers and advocate for $2 million in annual state funding to support Ohio’s 14 regional 211 help centers.

By dialing 211, Ohio residents can speak with community resource specialists who match the callers’ needs with thousands of available local resources.

The free, confidential service assists people with basic needs such as housing and food, physical and mental health services, employment support, child care and more.

State funding would allow the Ohio 211 network to address workforce shortages, make the social services ecosystem more efficient, defray increased operating costs and facilitate more complex care coordination. A substantial state investment in 211 will allow providers to continue to secure the infrastructure that offers this critical service to Ohio citizens.

Ohio 211s currently are funded by charitable or local dollars or a combination of both. Ohio is one of only three states that do not provide ongoing state funding for 211. A $2 million investment by the state would match the philanthropic investment United Ways make in 211 each year.

“Ohio 211s provide a vital public service, saving lives and state funds,” said Moira Weir, United Way of Greater Cincinnati president and CEO. “The individuals we serve avoid emergency rooms, shelters and other costly programs while following a path to self-sufficiency. 211 plays a vital role in Ohio’s emergency response efforts, including the COVID-19 pandemic response and the July 2022 tornadoes in Clermont County. We look forward to partnering with the state of Ohio to secure the necessary annual funding to ensure Ohio 211s can serve Ohio residents for years to come.”

Moira Weir
Moira Weir

In 2022 alone, 211 programs across Ohio served more than 810,000 callers and responded to an additional 52,000 texts, chats and emails. 211 staff have the knowledge and training to address callers with multiple and intersecting needs.

The 211 state operating budget request has garnered bipartisan support among legislative sponsors in the Ohio House of Representatives and Ohio Senate.

In Ohio, the importance of statewide 211 access corresponds to an increased need for health, substance use, employment and social services. Ohio’s unemployment rate is 4 percent, the 15th highest in the country as of summer 2022; the poverty rate is 12.6 percent, 17th highest in the country; and Ohio has 47.2 per 100,000 drug overdose deaths, the fourth highest in the country.

All 14 help centers providing 211 services in Ohio are members of the Ohio Alliance of Information and Referral Services (AIRS). United Ways operate five 211 centers; libraries and other nonprofit organizations run the others.

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