Citing funding challenges, the Family Service Agency announced Saturday that it will be shutting down the 2-1-1 Helpline that provides free, 24-hour access to health and human services assistance in Santa Barbara County.

The service — which officials say fielded approximately 15,000 calls and 45,000 online inquiries in 2011 — receives a large annual subsidy from the Family Service Agency, as well as additional funding from local governments and organizations. It receives no direct funding from the state or federal governments.

FSA executive director Scott Whiteley said the nonprofit organization must prioritize the programs it supports financially and will terminate the 2-1-1 service as of March 31.

“This was a difficult decision for us to make, and we recognize this action will be a significant loss to the community,” Whiteley said in a statement.

“We also believe it’s the only alternative that will allow us to continue supporting the other programs that Family Service Agency provides our community: Big Brothers Big Sisters, Senior Services, Family Support and Information Services, and Youth and Family Services.”

Whiteley said partner agencies and local government officials were informed of the FSA’s decision over the last few days. Callers to the helpline will be informed and reminded of the termination through March 31.

Click here for more information on the 2-1-1 Helpline.

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