Receiving assistance as easy as 2-1-1

The Telephone Counseling and Referral Service was recently renamed 211 Big Bend.

The multi-county counseling service has changed its number to 211, but it still provides the same counseling and referral information to the Big Bend community.

211 Big Bend services a network of eight surrounding counties: Franklin, Gadsden, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Taylor and Wakulla. It acts as a referral line that works similar to 411, but it provides help with emotional issues and community assistance.

“211 Big Bend was initiated because the community was aware of 911 and 411 for directory assistance,” said Maria T. Williams, communication and marketing coordinator for 211. “Its a community service that provides a human resource database at one central location.”

The counselors offer assistance with problems such as substance abuse, utility payments and advice on relationship issues.

“Most commonly we get calls on relationship issues from boyfriend-girlfriend, co-workers or husband-wife,” said Bradley Biggers, a hotline supervisor for 211. “What goes on [between two people] is a big stress in people’s lives. This is why the majority of our calls involve relationships one way or another.”

Randy Nicklaus, 211’s executive director, believes the new three-digit number is an easier number for the community to remember.

“Now residents can simply dial 2-1-1 when they need individual, confidential counseling and resource information.”

The counseling service received 50,000crisis and community information or referral telephone calls in February, and of those calls, 10 percent were suicide related.

Many FAMU and FSU students are certified, crisis counselors and volunteer their time to 211 Big Bend. The actual program is certified by the American Association of Suicidology.

“Each day we receive nearly 150 hotline calls including at least one suicide call,” said Elaine Bryant, a 211 Big Bend board member. “Our callers range from children to older adults, and they represent a variety of ethnic backgrounds.”

Students can also benefit from the counseling and referral services.

Williams said 211 can be accessed from the dormitories on FAMU and FSU campuses. Calling the number can help students take advantage of counseling services or retrieve information on volunteer opportunities within the community.

Farrah Hudson can be reached at