The United Way of Athens and Limestone County are currently installing software, computer support and training volunteers to start testing the new 211 system.

The 211 system will officially be up and running March 1, said Kay Young McFarlen, the executive director of United Way of Athens and Limestone County.

The system should be fully installed by the second week of February and then will be tested.

“It’s going to be tested to make sure the system and equipment will do everything that we think it will do to help the community in social services needs,” said McFarlen.

The 211 service is a phone system, similar to that of 411 information or 911 emergency systems, that citizens can call to receive connections to and information about social services.

The software for the system will allow United Way to record information more accurately.

During telephone inquiries, the client, their information and their needs will be entered into the computer system. All information is confidential to the social service system.

Next, the client’s information can be cross-referenced to make sure they are receiving as many resources as they need.

The system will allow operators to track clients and services they are receiving and have received.

“It allows all of us to work collaboratively so we don’t have gaps of services or duplicate services provided,” said McFarlen.

The system will also be the one number to call during a disaster for social services needs.

The Client Assistant Network (CAN) will also soon be available through the system.

“The Client can tell their story one time and every organization can assess the information,” said McFarlen.

Additionally, the social service information that the 211 system provides will eventually be available on the Web.

The United Way of Athens and Limestone County is also working to add additional counties to its 211 system.

“It will not be uncommon, at the request of the United Way, to cover other counties for a fee,” said McFarlen. “All we have to have is the correct information from their counties to give them the information that they need.”

Some calls from Giles and Lincoln counties in Tennessee will be handled in Limestone County due to phone prefixes and the way the phone system is set up. The Cullman County United Way board will vote in February on whether they will call for Limestone County 211 system support.

Volunteers will be needed to work 4 hour shifts and will be trained on the software. They will also receive training on how to handle and transfer emergency calls to 911.

To volunteer, call 233-2323.

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