Leonard & Ryan --
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Faith Works 2-11-17
Three numbers you must know
Got it? Three numbers. Like 911, which is what you call for emergency response, whether medical or fire or any threat of imminent harm.
And blessings with everyone working in and around our county Emergency Management Agency in the last week, which has had a remarkable set of challenges out of the "ransomware" crisis disabling much of our county phone and file management. The County 911 System has kept working right through all the technological setbacks and in the middle of these makeshift arrangements have had to deal with a spate of emergencies that have tested everyone involved: and they have passed that test with flying colors.
But among those crises and tragedies has been a theme that we all need to attend to. Sometimes, the tragedy is building, but hasn't yet broken. On occasion, you see a sorrow threatening to overwhelm someone else, and you feel helpless to respond. There are times when a crisis is not yet, as some would measure one, but you believe the crisis in close at hand, and needs to be prevented.
This is why you need to know 2-1-1. Just dial 211 on your landline, and on most cell or smartphones. 24 hours a day, there's someone waiting to talk to you, about suicide, about concerns over a friend or family member who is acting as if that might be a possibility, about addiction and how to act on a determination to make a change.
Call 211. You can also find them online at www.211pathways.com; some of us go back far enough to recall the old Crisis Center, and that number still works (with the area code!) of 740-345-HELP (4357). And if your cell service doesn't respond to 211, you can call 800-544-1601.
When you call 211, you don't have to prove you have an emergency right off. 911 has to keep the line clear, and can't talk to you about your problems on a potential or possible nature. They would, if you called about a friend who had started to give away their personal possessions or talking about being dead and making you really, really nervous, tell you to call 211.
Pathways trains their 211 operators as "Crisis Response Specialists." They know how to help you figure out what the concern really is, and where to go next. They don't drive out to your house any more than a 911 dispatcher gets in their vehicle and respond themselves, but they know whom to contact.
Suicide is a tough subject. Addiction, and anxiety, and urgent concerns that aren't tied to an immediate threat of harm, but are surely heading there given enough time: you have someone to call. 211.
If you are a helping or caring professional – and that includes clergy! – you can call when you're flummoxed, when a situation baffles you, when you just don't quite know how to help. I've done it before as a minister, and I'll do it again: I call 211 and say "hey, Pastor Jeff here, and I've got a situation and I'm trying not to send someone off on a wild goose chase." The CRS trained person on the line will look up the right resource, the proper contact number or address, and give me the ability to make the right referral, the most direct assistance, real help in real time.
We need to think about, tell others, and use 211 more than we do. They know over at Pathways that the hardest calls to deal with are the ones they learn never get made. You may not have the problem, but you see it, and aren't sure what to do (or NOT do). 211 can help.
And a favor I try not to ask very often: I hope every adult Sunday school class in the county has someone who clips this column, brings it in tomorrow to the group, and reminds them about 211. Anyone can call, everyone can help. 211 gives you the tools to build a better response in your church, your family, in our world.
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him about the changes that caught you and your church off-guard at email@example.com, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.