Joud Madanat, Staff Writer

Image Source from United Way of Lake County

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you did not require traditional emergency services, but still needed some help? Most Americans know the number “911” like the back of their hand, it has been engraved in us as kids to remember that it’s the number we call in case of any emergency. However, the education on what the number “911” should actually be used for is lacking and has been for a while, which has caused people to implicitly abuse it. 

Different states, counties, and municipalities have different services they provide within their various non-emergency numbers, and this is because of the resources available to them. In Pennsylvania, the 211 non-emergency number is a 24-hour service that assists with housing, childcare, utility problems, transportation options, and legal aid, among other things. The services that I believe are most important to highlight and educate the public about are their mental health services as well as substance abuse treatment. 

 The 211 dispatchers can help take the burden off of the 911 dispatchers as well as law enforcement. 911 dispatchers deal with a lot of burnout and stress due to the shortage of qualified dispatchers, which makes their jobs that much more demanding and stressful. “It’s estimated that at least 20% of police calls for service involve a mental health or substance use crisis” (Abramson, 2021). Law enforcement officers are not always well-equipped and trained for mental health and substance abuse calls; therefore, opening the space for non-emergency services like 211 is beneficial for everyone. 

Overall, the importance of educating ourselves as well as the people we love about the fact that non-emergency services are readily available to us when needed. Pushing for awareness of the 211 non-emergency number can help our communities be prepared for any circumstance by knowing what number to call so they know how to best assist themselves. This will reduce the number of people killed and imprisoned during police interactions when they should be receiving rehabilitation.