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Helpline Hopes State Will Help Fund Expansion

January 10, 2013, 5:46 AM by Kellee Azar

Helpline Hopes State Will Help Fund Expansion

Getting help in the time of a disaster is a top priority for many. The Helpline Center helps many people get the services they need in bad time through its 211 call center. But now they have a new goal to help even more people.

"Our hope is that we can look for statewide funding for 211. 211 is the three-digit phone number that we run that is just in the Black Hills and Sioux Falls.  And we would like to make it statewide for people to access resource information 24 hours a day," Helpline Center Director Janet Kittams-Lalley said.

Since starting 211 in 2001, the call center takes about 50,000 calls between the two cities per year.

"So if we had it statewide, I know we would reach a tremendous number of people," Kittams-Lalley said.

In order to help everyone in all corners of the state, Kittams-Lalley says she is already talking with some local legislative representatives because South Dakota, as a whole, sticks out compared to the rest of the country.

"And actually across the country 90 percent of people have access to 211.  And in South Dakota only 40 percent of the population has access," Kittams-Lalley said.

To show how important 211 can really be, you don't have to look back far to see how it has helped.

"The forest fires out in the Black Hills this summer, we used 211 extensively to tell the general public about road closures, evacuation areas, burn bans, you name it.  We made sure the general public knew about it," Kittams-Lalley said.

The Helpline is still in talks but they expect to need about $500,000 per year to expand to the entire state, which would mainly be to staff the call center.

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