Community Information and Referral (I&R) has operated as part of the health and human service industry for nearly 50 years. Americans in search of critical services such as emergency financial assistance, food, shelter, child care, jobs, or mental health support often do not know where to begin. Looking for help means locating dozens of phone numbers and/or websites (for those who have access), and then searching through a maze of agencies and services to make the right connection. I&R services were created to help people negotiate this maze; comprehensive and specialized I&R agencies now exist to provide linkages between the individual and the services available in their community.

I&R services maintain comprehensive databases of resources including federal, state, and local government agencies, private non-profit agencies, faith and community based organizations, schools, libraries and neighborhood and civic organizations. The comprehensive I&R service often maintains this data for the specialized centers in the community and makes it available on the Internet, in other electronic forms, and through paper directories and handbooks.

I&R specialists are skilled professionals who work with callers to find the help they need. They assess callers' needs and help the caller determine their options and the best course of action. Additionally, I&R specialists are trained to determine whether a caller may be eligible for other programs, to intervene in crisis situations, and to advocate on behalf of the caller, as needed.

On July 21, 2000, the Federal Communications Commission assigned one of the nation's scarcest communications resources - a three-digit dialing code, 2-1-1 to be used exclusively for community information and referral purposes. This easy-to-remember, universal number that connects individuals with community resources is the solution America needs for more people to find help or give help in their communities. 2-1-1 provides an easy way for every citizen to access comprehensive and specialized I&R services in their community.



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