BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- When natural disasters strike or Hoosiers encounter their own personal hardships -- abuse or lack of food, health care or safe housing -- they can get accurate information 24/7 about services to address those needs by dialing 2-1-1 on their phone or visiting www.in211.org. Despite the availability of the 211 service in all 92 Indiana counties, only 39 percent of local government officials are aware of its existence.
A new report from Indiana University examines what community leaders such as mayors, county commissioners, and city and county council members know about the 211 service in Indiana. Using data from a survey of 2,441 local government officials conducted by the Indiana Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations in 2014, it updates findings from the 2010 survey of local government officials.
The previous report on the 211 service, published in 2013, reported that calls to the service nearly doubled from 2007 to 2011, but many local officials did not know that the service was available in their counties, nor did they think it was a useful service.
The newly published 2017 report demonstrates that the use of 211 services by Hoosiers continues at a high volume -- over 600,000 contacts made in 2014. Of those who contacted the service for help, the vast majority (86 percent) say the 211 service improved the situation for which they sought assistance.
"The 211 service is a cost-effective way to connect Hoosiers to local agencies that can provide services they need," said Kirsten Grønbjerg, associate dean for faculty affairs at the Indiana University Bloomington School of Public and Environmental Affairs and the Efroymson Chair in Philanthropy at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI. "Without 211, local government officials and local charities would have to spend their own resources to respond to calls for help from their constituents, and most likely leave many calls unanswered and needs unmet."
In addition to their lack of awareness of the 211 service, only 14 percent of local government officials find the service to be "very useful," although about half consider it "somewhat useful." These percentages show consistency with the 2010 survey data, indicating little to no improvement in officials' understanding of the 211 service.
"It is disappointing that less than two in five local government officials say they are aware of the service and less than half say it is somewhat or very useful," Grønbjerg said.
This response from officials suggests an urgent need to educate leaders about the availability and utility of 211 services, especially considering the increasing use of these services by Hoosiers, who have received nearly 1 million referrals to various community resources as a result.
"The invaluable research provided in the report will inform our current communication and outreach efforts, so we may increase the level of awareness among elected officials, community stakeholders and most importantly, individuals who are in need," said Julie Johns-Cole, state director at the Indiana 211 Partnership. "We'd like to thank Dr. Grønbjerg and her team for dedicating their time and expertise to this study."
According to the results presented in this report, campaigns to build awareness of the 211 service should be targeted at officials in counties that have low 211 call volumes per capita; local government officials who are pessimistic about the direction their community is heading; those in rural counties; and those who serve as city, town or county council members or school board members.
About the briefing
The "Indiana Local Government Officials and 2-1-1 Service" briefing is the sixth in a series by the Indiana Nonprofits Project: Scope and Community Dimensions project, used to inform local community leaders and policymakers. The analysis is a joint effort of the Indiana University Public Policy Institute, the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IU Bloomington and the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI. The briefing's co-authors are project director Kirsten Grønbjerg and research assistant and MPA student Hannah Martin.
For more information or to speak with Grønbjerg, contact Jim Hanchett at SPEA, 812-856-5490 or firstname.lastname@example.org; or Adriene Davis Kalugyer at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, 317-278-8972 or email@example.com.