INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (April 22, 2015) - Answering thousands of calls across Indiana every day, 211 is a number synonymous with help. Now though, they’re the organization in need.
Unless the organization can get the funding it is asking for from the state, the organization’s CEO says they will have to scale way back. Cuts could include answering fewer phone calls during fewer hours, and some parts of the state potentially not even having a 211 service.
At the Indianapolis Connect2Help 211 center, thousands of calls are answered every day.
“It can be from just basic clothing to your more crisis, which is suicidal or domestic violence,” said Melissa Carroll, a Connect2Help Specialist.
Carroll is among a team of 30 211 specialists in Indianapolis. Every year, they answer the third most calls in the country, behind only New York City, and Los Angeles.
But funding restrictions have limited the number of 211 call specialists in Indiana. Last year, 211 specialists answered 420,000 calls statewide, but they were unable to answer 100,000 due to a lack of funding.
“Someone who’s feeling suicidal, sitting on the end of their bad with the gun in their lap and they can’t get through? What kind of a message does that give to that person?” said Connect2Help CEO, Lynn Engel.
Engel says donations are drying up and for the first time in the organization’s history, she is having to call on the state house, to save it.
If lawmakers can’t find the $2 million that’s needed, “There may not be statewide coverage because we provide service to a lot of counties that don’t pay anything that we get no funding for whatsoever. We provide the 24/7, we may have to give up on that or shorten those hours a bit,” said Engel.
“It’s a $30 billion budget and you would think we could find $2 million,” said State Senator Jim Merritt (R – Indianapolis).
Merritt says lawmakers are scraping together what they can, and while he hopes they can fund 211 at $2 million, it may be much less.
“We will be working night and day, convincing my colleagues that we need some funding for 211 this year,” he said.
The budget deadline is looming. Lawmakers will know next week exactly how much, if anything they’ll be able to provide to 211.
Engel attributes the drop in funding to donor fatigue; organizations that have donated for years, no longer having the means or will to continue to pay.