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History of 2-1-1 in Michigan

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It’s hard to imagine a time before there was a unified 2-1-1 system in Michigan when information and referral services weren’t coordinated across the state and so easily accessed by phone or Internet search.

Yet, in just the short period of time since 2000, the consolidation and growth of Michigan 2-1-1 has changed the way people and services come together – for the better.

Today, 2-1-1 is the one-stop for easy access to health, educational and governmental services of all kinds across Michigan and the nation.

A history of 2-1-1 in Michigan


  • The state Legislature approves Public Act 295 designating 2-1-1 for Michigan, incorporating the national standards known as AIRS (Alliance of Information and Referral Standards), and requiring a local community collaborative endorsement.
  • A Michigan 2-1-1 collaborative emerges, including the Michigan Association of United Ways, local United Ways, Michigan AIRS and local groups focused on crisis intervention and aging information and referral services.


  • The W.K. Kellogg Foundation provides Michigan 2-1-1 with start-up funds, including a salary for a part-time coordinator.


  • The first 2-1-1 in Michigan opens in Battle Creek.  Over the years, other contact centers start up with the most recent one opening in Midland in 2009.


  • The national 2-1-1 logo becomes available to Michigan.  A workgroup of resource managers organizes to share best practices, and ensure consistent quality and record-sharing.  Statewide training follows for database and software improvements.


  • Michigan 2-1-1 organizes as an independent, nonprofit entity.  


  • A Michigan 2-1-1 Business Plan emerges to identify funds and future expansions.  Originally, local United Ways would pay for half of the business plan’s necessary system costs and the state government would pay for the other portion.  For various reasons, state funds to cover 50 percent of the system costs have not materialized. To fill the gap, Michigan 2-1-1 continues to reach out to corporations and philanthropy organizations seeking grants to help fund 2-1-1. Michigan 2-1-1  the highest priority for United Way worldwide.
  • Senate Bill 272 orders identification of toll-free numbers and more than 700 are identified. The rewrite of the Michigan Telecommunications Act (Bill 5237) authorizes Michigan 2-1-1 to coordinate its use across state departments and calls for statewide call routing.


  • The Michigan Association of United Ways incorporates Michigan 2-1-1 as part of its operations.
  • Regional contact center directors come together in a Michigan 2-1-1 Operating Council.
  • The Michigan Department of Community Health provides operating funds to Michigan 2-1-1. 


  • The Calling for 2-1-1 Act of 2007 is introduced in Congress to authorize $700 million over five years to sustain Michigan 2-1-1. The bill fails to generate enough support for a vote, however.
  • The state Department of Human Services budgets $100,000 for a 2-1-1 demonstration project.
  • The Michigan State Police Disaster and Recovery Plan includes Michigan 2-1-1. 
  • 2-1-1 access for cell phones and VOIP (Voice of Internet Protocol) begins.


  • The number of Michigan 2-1-1 requests for service exceeds 500,000.
  • Consumers Energy donates funds that make it possible to extend 2-1-1 to areas without service.
  • The Michigan Department of Human Services approves spending $200,000 to help Michigan residents access information about the Earned Income Tax Credit. (The department continues its annual allocation, raising it to $550,000 in 2011.)


  • 2-1-1 partners with the Michigan Department of Community Health to provide information about the contagious H1N1 flu virus and to make referrals to immunization sites.
  • The system partners with the state to direct Helping Hand website users to 2-1-1 online resources.
  • Northeast Michigan pilots the use of text messaging and online chats.


  • At the urging of U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan,  the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides $200,000 to help build out 2-1-1 in Michigan.
  • The Michigan Department of Community Health provides $100,000 to expand the call routing system to additional regions in Michigan.
  • The Calling for 2-1-1 Act, co-sponsored by all Michigan legislators, gains significant support nationally (61 Senate and 252 House co-sponsors), but does not pass out of committee.
  • The Michigan Department of Community Health provides $100,000 to expand call routing systems to more Michigan 2-1-1 centers to improve emergency and disaster preparedness.


  • Consumers Energy Foundation awards a total of $300,000 in matching grants to help local communities start up 2-1-1 service. (2009 – 2012)
  • $110,000 grant for 2-1-1 services is established in the Michigan Children’s Health Insurance Program Re-authorization Act. This enables the Michigan Primary Care Association to connect children with health insurance.  (2011 -  2012)
  • The Michigan Department of Community Health Office for Public Health Preparedness grants $100,000 to integrate and use 2-1-1 in the statewide health emergency plan.
  • The Michigan Department of Community Health grants $200,000 to include 2-1-1 in the MI Healthy Baby initiative, a free resource for moms and their babies to get help before, during and after pregnancy.  (2011 – 2012)
  • The Michigan Department of Human Services awards $550,000 to provide outreach for Earned Income Credit assistance, to maintain the database of free tax assistance sites, and to schedule free tax assistance.


  • The Michigan Department of Community Health Office for Public Health Preparedness awards $70,000 to integrate and use 2-1-1 in the statewide health emergency plan.
  • The Michigan Association of United Ways receives $1.5 million award from the U.S. Department of Transportation to bring together eight regional 2-1-1 contact centers. This creates a statewide system with service helping veterans and other users tap the entire state's resources and connect with locally available transportation and other vital community services.  The funding provides for the build out of the statewide call routing system, statewide database, and a single website to access 2-1-1 resources online.  It adds transportation resources to the database and supports expansion of service into remaining unserved counties.  (2012 – 2014)
  • The Michigan Department of Human Services provides $400,000 to support outreach for Earned Income Credit assistance, maintain database of free tax assistance sites, and schedule free tax assistance.


  • The Consumer Energy Foundation presented $200,000 to Michigan 2-1-1 help communities struggling with raising their local share of funding to support 2-1-1 service.  The grant is available to assist communities that either do not have 2-1-1 service or are at-risk of not being able to meet their financial commitment to continue local 2-1-1 service.  Michigan 2-1-1 shared in a second grant from the Foundation through the Michigan Economic Impact Coalition that provides $50,000 to support 2-1-1 work around free tax preparation and to help families qualify for various tax credits. 


  • The Department of Community Health provides an $8,000 contract to assist Michigan 2-1-1 and each of the contact centers update information in their Continuity of Operations Plans.

Today, Michigan’s eight contact centers cover 99.7 percent of the state’s population. Nationally, Michigan 2-1-1 is part of a federal information and referral network across the 50 states, D.C. and Puerto Rico.  The very first 2-1-1 in the United States opened in a United Way operation in Atlanta, Ga. in 1997.

 The rest – as they say -- is history.