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The Cost Savings of 211

A national cost benefit analysis conducted by the University of Texas estimates a net value to society of a national 211 system approaching $9.3 million in the first year alone and a conservative estimate of $155 million over ten years. The analysis is based largely on the data of eleven 211 centers in the following areas: Hawaii; Idaho; Connecticut; Houston, TX; Twin Cities, MN; Salt Lake City, UT; Albuquerque, NM; Grand Rapids, MI; Atlanta, GA; Sioux Falls, SD; and Jacksonville, FL, along with data from the state of Texas, local AICs, reports from national associations, and peer-reviewed published studies.  

Cost Saving Examples for Taxpayers, Employers and Government

  • Time saved for individuals and families through a one-stop call center for a variety of services
  • Decreased need for public assistance because of timely connection with appropriate intervening services
  • Reduction in non-emergency calls to 9-1-1
  • Reduction in the number of 1-800 numbers funded by government
  • Enhanced tax assistance and recovery, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit
  • Volunteer recruitment for non-profits and ability for government to mobilize volunteers in times of crisis
  • Savings for business through reduced absenteeism and increased productivity due to enhanced information on where employees can find services
  • Planning information for cities and counties informed by the data collection of call volume and referrals for a comprehensive array of services
  • A broad communication network for public dissemination of information about changes in federal, state and local programs
  • Cost avoidance for state and local government of misdirected calls for services
  • 24 hours a day, 7 days a week service
  • Ability to disseminate public health and crisis preparedness information

The benefits of 211 systems increase over time as new, innovative uses are employed for the number.

Other Key Findings of the University of Texas Study

The research found that the viability of maintaining and expanding a high quality, national 211 network is dependent on the infusion of additional funds to sustain the current operations and expand the current system. 

The study also determined that the national 211 effort is ripe for enhanced public/private sector collaboration. There is greater opportunity to maximize resources as the 211 call centers, and the public and non-profit agencies to which they make referrals, recognize the complementary features of their service delivery systems.

The study further finds, "In Texas, the benefits of the statewide 211 exceed the costs by 50 percent or more, depending on the year...This estimate, however, includes only those benefits that may be reasonably reduced to dollar amounts—a relatively small subset of all possible benefits. Many of the benefits, such as the development of social capital and the frequently cited “relief and reassurance” value of 211, cannot be expressed in monetary terms. For this reason, the net values and benefit to cost ratios underestimate the true comprehensive value of 211."

View this study.

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