On July 21, 2000 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) assigned the three-digit phone number 2-1-1 as the designated number for people to call when looking for information on health and human services. To bring this Service to WNY, Central Referral Service, Inc., the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County, The American Red Cross, The Wyoming County Community Action Inc. and the United Ways representing Niagara, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua Counties entered into a partnership. The service will work closely with the United Ways, volunteer centers, crisis lines, local 9-1-1 providers as well as both comprehensive and specialized information and referral services.
In July 2003, the 2-1-1 NY Collaborative was established. This group was assigned the task of evaluating 2-1-1 applications by N.Y. State Public Service Commission and granted the 2-1-1 WNY to Central Referral Service Inc. on behalf of the 2-1-1 WNY Collaborative – the first 2-1-1 call center designation in New York State.
Funds to launch the service were secured from area United Ways, The John R. Oishei Foundation and New York State (thanks in large part to the WNY Delegation). Because 2-1-1 WNY works closely with local emergency agencies, Central Referral Service Inc. and 2-1-1 WNY join 9-1-1 and Emergency Services in the Erie County Public Safety Campus.
Because this is a statewide effort, the 2-1-1 service in WNY will be linked to other 2-1-1 centers across the state. This relationship will be critical in times of emergency. It permits the sharing of statistical information which can be used by funders to spot unmet needs.
An Advisory Committee oversees the region’s operations. Each participating county has 3 representatives on the Committee.