When 211 Metro Chicago launched in January, we already knew the significant need for this free health and social service helpline. The pandemic proved that awareness of and access to social services was extremely limited in Cook County, with residents unsure where to turn as they struggled with basic needs.
Further, many of the more than 6.1 million calls Chicago’s 911 and 311 received last year were social service requests that 211 could have met if it had been available.
Eight months into operating 211 Metro Chicago as executive director, I see the helpline’s impact and deeply understand our region’s greatest needs. Unfortunately, systemic social, political and economic issues have exacerbated the challenges and highlight the need for collaboration to combat them.
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I have dedicated my career to developing and running 211 helplines in our nation’s highest-need regions, like in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The needs then were clear and felt firsthand, as I was forced out of my home alongside the neighbors I served. But it’s different in Chicago.
Our local resource navigators see this every day as they take calls from people in diverse neighborhoods and suburbs, seeking help with an array of issues, namely housing and food security. While some areas are flush with resources, others are disconnected, and residents struggle to meet their needs. These voids have real consequences, like the shocking 10-year difference in life expectancy between North and South Side residents.
We can only address these needs and build stronger communities through collaboration with civic, business, nonprofit and philanthropic organizations, like the unique partnership between United Way of Metro Chicago, the city of Chicago and Cook County that supports 211. But we also need to share data, resources and expertise with 911, 311 and 988 to create a system that holistically supports Cook County residents.
And even after fielding over 70,000 contacts since January, we still need to raise awareness that help is available by dialing 211, texting 898211 or visiting 211MetroChicago.org.
I am proud of the impact that 211 Metro Chicago has made on our region and the ways we have integrated this service into the fabric of our community. But there is more to be done to create a fully collaborative web of partners and solve our communities’ greatest challenges.
Richard LaPratt, executive director, 211 Metro Chicago
Why won’t GOP show support for Ukraine?
The fact that Russia underestimated the will of the Ukrainian people has opened a huge door that benefits the U.S. The weapons and aid sent to Ukraine have resulted in a road to decimation of the Russian military machine.
The cowardliness of the GOP in terms of supporting Ukraine is mindless and has no logical basis. There are no U.S. troops on the ground; Ukrainian soldiers are willing to fight and die to save their country. All Ukraine is asking from the U.S. is the materials to do the job.
We spent billions in Iraq and Afghanistan with nothing to show for it.
Warren Rodgers Jr., Orland Park