NJ 2-1-1 is a free, statewide information and referral service that connects people in need with existing programs and services that can help. It’s focus is on health and human services, which means that if you are struggling to feed your family; pay the utility bill; find childcare/healthcare/eldercare; locate affordable housing; find substance abuse services, get assistance with mental health issues and other similar basic needs, the number to call is 2-1-1. Additionally, the organization partners with the NJ Department of Health to increase awareness of diabetes prevention and management classes.

“After we have provided resources in response to a caller’s request, we ask the majority of our callers if they would like information on diabetes prevention and management classes,” explains NJ 2-1-1 Executive Director Melissa Acree. She continues, “Most people don’t realize what a serious health issue this is and that type 2 diabetes is often preventable if caught when someone’s blood sugar levels are in the prediabetes range.”

Diabetes is the 6th leading cause of death among adults in NJ and, if left untreated, can lead to serious health problems, like stroke, heart attack, blindness, kidney failure and loss of toes, feet, or legs. Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease, accounts for 95% of those diagnosed with diabetes. Prior to acquiring type 2 diabetes a person often has prediabetes, a condition that is usually reversible by a change in lifestyle, eating habits and exercise routine. One in three Americans is prediabetic and 90% of those people don’t know it.

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It is easy enough to find out if you are at risk for prediabetes, or already have type 2 diabetes. Ask your doctor to do a screening test. A simple blood sugar test (the A1C) will inform you if you fall in that prediabetic range where your blood sugar is higher than normal, but not high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes. Dial 2-1-1 if you find that you are prediabetic or have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes to find a class that is appropriate for you. Ms. Acree explains, “We will connect you with a CDC-recognized lifestyle change program, one of the most effective ways to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.” Without intervention, many people with prediabetes could develop type 2 diabetes within 5 years. Diabetes management classes are also available to those who have been diagnosed with the disease. Classes are available in-person and on-line.

Regardless of the time of day (the service is available 24/7/365) when you contact NJ 2-1-1, the phone will be answered by a person who knows community resources and has access to information on more than 10,000 programs and services provided by approximately 3,000 agencies, non-profit organizations and faith-based groups serving local communities. Those who prefer can communicate with the organization by texting their zip code to 898-211 or starting an online chat at www.nj211.org. The resource database is available on their website as well.