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Forty Percent Of Illinois Lacks Public Help Hotline , 2-1-1

CHICAGO (CBS)—In times of crisis, people may not always know where to turn.

Much of the nation uses 2-1-1 for non-emergency help, but most of the state of Illinois doesn't have access to that service.

Kane County is trying to change that, however.

An unverified social media gun threat flooded Batavia High School and police with phone calls last February, clogging emergency lines.

In response, the City of Batavia has started to consider a solution for handling non-urgent calls.

Rick Pumo of Batavia United Way said officials were examining ways to help increase the community's feeling of safety, including the adoption of a 2-1-1 system.

2-1-1 was instrumental for crisis communications after gas explosions in Massachusetts and hurricanes in South Carolina.

But 2-1-1 operators also handle everyday social service needs.

"2-1-1 is the number to call when you're not sure who to call," Pumo said.

Amy Nelson of Batavia Schools Outreach said 2-1-1 would be a useful resource for the community.

"A lot of our families in need struggle with utility help, rent assistance, financial assistance, mental health care, medical needs—all those things are able to be covered with 2-1-1," she said.

The call center in Bloomington trained its workers for three months on which resources are available to Kane County residents.

"Any time you search for something, there are thousands of hits showing up on your search that are noise," Pumo said. "2-1-1 is a specialist."

Most other states are already fully covered by 2-1-1 services, but in Illinois the state government doesn't fund the service.

"The project is possible only with funding from Kane County schools, Kane County government, the Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley and the Dunham Fund," Pumo said.

Superintendent of Batavia School District 101, Lisa Hichens, said disadvantaged families would find the service useful.

"Maybe 1,100 students in Kane County that are homeless--it was helpful for us to be able to invest in something that would provide the most up to date resources that would be a great match for the families," she said.

McHenry County also has an active 2-1-1 system, while Will and Lake Counties do not.

Chicago residents have 3-1-1, a service that offers 24/7 operators who take emergency calls and direct callers to the appropriate city department of partner organization.

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