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FRAMINGHAM – Today is 211 Day in Massachusetts.

Mass 211 Day is a day to honor the hard work and dedication of the call takers of the 24 hour Mass 2-1-1 Information and Referral Line.

Yesterday, February 10, a celebration of Mass211 was held at the United Way of Tri-County in Framingham, the statewide headquarters for the program.

Mass 2-1-1 is now 17 years old.

In 2006, 2-1-1 was created in conjunction with the Commonwealth to provide free information and referral services to the people of the Commonwealth, free of charge, 24-hours-a-day, seven days a week,” said United Way of Tri-County CEO Paul Mina. “Several years later with the United Way of Tri-County created a program called Call2Talk, which is a mental health suicide prevention program. And that call center has now morphed into becoming part of the 2-1-1 statewide platform. We’re so proud of the work that our call takers do.”

Mass 2-1-1 is now also the official hotline from MEMA, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, headquartered in Framingham.

“Mass 2-1-1 is also the official childcare hotline for EEC. We are the official hotline for DCF for both their children requiring an assistance program and the RAP program, which is runaway assistance program, Mass DPH’s suicide prevention line and Mass housing line. So we’ve grown a tremendous amount and that’s because of all the people who have supported us throughout these years,” said Mina yesterday.

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In fact if you visit the Mass 2-1-1 website, it states “We are currently experiencing higher than normal call volume due to EEC recently announcing a new pilot program to support access to childcare financial assistance for staff working in EEC licensed or funded programs.  This launched on January 11, 2023. We ask that you exercise patience and if possible utilize the callback feature available through our telephone system. Rest assured your call will be answered in the order in which it was received.”

Mina said “One of the great things I’ve ever done in my life, I think is to hire the person I’m going to introduce to you right now. Eileen Davis is the backbone of the 2-1-1 program. She works very, very, very hard. She’s got a fantastic team. I’m so proud of all of them.”

Davis is the vice president of Mass 2-1-1.

“This is my fourth 2-1-1 day. So that’s with a lot of pride that we all stand here together today. It would really take the entire rest of the afternoon to really reflect and review on all the accomplishments and everything that we’ve experienced over the past few years, and definitely the last year. It’s just so vast. It’s just so much. It just boggles my mind to even start to think about that. But with this growth comes the ability. It’s a good thing, right? It’s you serve more people, you provide more resources, you can help more people and do more good things. So it’s all good. So we take a lot of pride in all of this, and this year alone, we’ve seen exponential growth in so many of our lines as Paul mentioned,” said Davis. “We have had exponential growth in the childcare line, our housing and emergency shelter program, utility payment assistance, our landlord, tenant relations, legal aid, and of course mental health and suicide prevention programming.”

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“Our mission is to lead public health and service delivery efforts that promote mental health prevent substance misuse, and provide treatments and supports to foster recovery while ensuring equitable access and better outcomes. Today we celebrate the MASS 2-1-1 and Call2Talk teams and honor their commitment to providing round-the-clock phone support to individuals who need them at some of their most difficult times,” said Taylor Bryan Turner,  the Assistant Regional Administrator for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). She advances SAMHSA’s mission in the six New England States and tribal nations.

“I started in March, 2020 alone at home working with the highest number of anxiety, stress, and depression and isolation. So my gratitude for you, for being there for people in their darkest times is limitless. Really we feel that Mass 2-1-1 really carries our vision to address service delivery efforts in a holistic approach and covers the state’s needs are not just mental health, critical pain and trauma,” said Bryan Turner.

“When you dial that number from Massachusetts, Mass 2-1-1 is among the trained counselors that will provide support that is needed. I want to thank Kelly Cunningham for our 988 team. We meet regionally to hear from you what’s working well, what needs to, what do you need, and we really care about your mental health as you carry out this critical and important work. Key components of effective crisis care are someone to talk to, someone to respond, and a place to go,” said Bryan Turner.

“The Biden Harris administration has increased federal investments 18 fold from $24 million to $432 million for this national priority,” said Bryan Turner. “And just to show you what that means, when I started at SAMSA, our whole entire budget was for $120 million.”

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“Lastly, I’d like to give a shout out to one of my favorite components of MASS 2-1-1, and it is the TeleCheck Program. The program is a community of older adults who volunteer, who answer the call to talk fine to help other older adults and make their physical presence to United Way on any given day. They are here. Rain, shine, snow, slate and these seniors are her. This safe space for connection community truly does save lives,” said Bryan Turner. “According to the CDC our older adults are suffering all substances. They have tripled In the last two decades, suicide ideation due to isolation and depression are among the highest populations. I’m very grateful for the Move Forward program that has been brought and mentioned today. So with that, we thank you. We honor you. We applaud you. We are proud of you, and we are really grateful for you showing up each and every day.”

The last speaker yesterday was Everett L. Handford, Regional Director of New England U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, who was appointed by president Joseph Biden.

“I just want to say thank you to all of the staff and volunteers here at Mass 2-1-1, and across this region for just answering calls, texts, and chat. Today we take time truly to celebrate and honor and applaud all of the staff and volunteers for the remarkable work that you are doing to provide hope support assistance certainly to our most vulnerable in this community,” said Handford.

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“Our country is facing unprecedented mental health and substance abuse crisis among people of all ages, colors and queens. And although the rates of depression and anxiety were rising before the pandemic, the anguish and trauma and physical and social isolation that many people experience during the pandemic height, these issues not to mention that drug overdose deaths have also reached a historic and high, and they’re certainly devastating to individuals and families and communities,” said Handford.

Senate President Karen Spilka was scheduled to speak but could not attend. The only elected leader in attendance was District 7 City Councilor Leora Mallach.

Susan Nicholl From Senate President Spilka’s office read a proclamation declaring February 11 Mass 2-1-1 day, signed by Governor Maura Healey.

By editor

Susan Petroni is the former editor for SOURCE. She is the founder of the former news site, which as of May 1, 2023, is now a self-publishing community bulletin board. The website no longer has a journalist but a webmaster.