CHARLESTON, W.Va. — “Exciting” is the word used by Margaret O’Neal, the President and CPO United Way of Central W.Va. when describing the first statewide collaborative project ever undertaken by all 14 individual United Ways.

That project is a revamped statewide 2-1-1 information line. 2-1-1 is a national toll-free, confidential line that links callers to health and human service information and referral in their local area through trained certified specialists.

“No matter where you are in the state, you can talk to a live person who will be able to guide you and give you information and resources on a variety of different things,” O’Neal said.

Addiction, counseling and mental health, crisis and emergency, disabilities, domestic violence, emergency and disaster relief, food, healthcare, human trafficking, jobs and education reentry, shelters and housing plus utilities, substance abuse, and veterans, are listed as just some of the information and support services given.

“At a time when there are a variety of needs for our citizens in West Virginia, be the closest food pantry, assistance for substance abuse or a homeless issue, we want to make sure that people have a resource that is toll-free and is kept up to date,” she said.

“2-1-1 is that resource for the citizens of West Virginia and the partnership between the United Ways was frankly a natural fit.”

O’Neal said the biggest difference is a new call provider, which will be First Choice Services in Charleston. The provider won a bid for those services as the United Way said First Choice was the most affordable and the only one in West Virginia to put in a bid.

First Choice Services will work as the call center for 2-1-1 on evenings and weekends as during business hours, a caller to the 2-1-1 will be directed to their local United Way.

The line is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. O’Neal said West Virginia has had such 24-hour line since the early 2000s.

More information on the program can be found by dialing 2-1-1.

“Any time that you try to get 14 organizations on a like-minded field can be a challenge,” O’Neal said. “The best thing and the great news for people around West Virginia is that your United Ways are committed to making sure that we do everything we can to make West Virginia the best place to live and work and raise a family.

“Community development leads to economic development. If we can work with partners in our communities to reduce the challenges that people see, we believe people will come home.”