The Helpline Center launched their 2-1-1 services in Codington County this morning.

2-1-1 is designed to provide assistance for issues dealing with basic human needs, disaster support and mental health resources.

Watertown Mayor Sarah Caron says that 2-1-1 is a number you can call for everyday questions or problems but emphasizes that it does not replace 9-1-1…..

When you dial 2-1-1 your call will ring into a call center in Sioux Falls.  Lisa Dahl of the Watertown Area United Way says the operators are trained very well to assist in a variety of issues including mental health crisis calls…..

In 2019, South Dakota’s State Legislature passed SB 8, which provides a funding match to expand 2-1-1 service in South Dakota.  Currently, there are 34 counties in South Dakota that have access to 2-1-1 services. That equates to about 75% of the state’s population.   

Operators responded to more than 46,000 calls, emails and texts that came in to the call center in 2018. The center also saw a 27% increase in suicide-related contacts between 2017 and 2018.  Helpline CEO Janet Kittams says she sees that as a positive step because people are reaching out and asking for help more often.

The collection of information for the Watertown Area was done quickly to ensure that the service was ready to go on-line today, February 11th or 2-11. 

The cost of the 2-1-1 helpline is $26,400 annually which computes to about .92 per person in the county.   The State of South Dakota covers half of the cost and the remaining $13,200 is split among Codington County, the City of Watertown, Prairie Lakes Healthcare and the Watertown Area United Way.  Each entity pays $3,300 per year for the service.

Again, the Helpline Center began operations this morning.