PATH started through volunteers' efforts, people who cared about the problems and issues of the early 1970s, including street drugs. PATH has never lost the volunteer focus. Today, volunteers still answer the calls 24/7/365, although street drugs are not the only reason people call PATH. In the first weeks of operation, people called about LSD, depression, suicide, birth control, and relationships. The training expanded to provide the volunteers with the tools they needed. Early manuals had instructions on talking someone down from a "bad trip" on LSD, using the orange trick, and assessing suicide risk.
Across the nation, centers like PATH were opening. Research showed that a confidential, anonymous hotline attracted people who desperately needed help but adverse to seeking help in traditional systems. Saving lives has always been the most critical service PATH provides.
As the years passed, PATH served the community in many different and innovative ways with the support of United Way and other grants. There was a Lawyer On-Call, volunteer attorneys who would answer questions after-hours. PhoneFriend gave children home alone after school, but before parents arrived, someone to talk with, ask questions, and obtain the support they needed. After-school programs were not yet in existence. PATH filled the gap and gave the community time to create programming.
During the 1980s, PATH had a Farmer On-Call, a Gay Person On-Call, and a teen support hotline answered by trained high-school students. We connected a caller to a service, then we hung up and let the call progress. Having this feature early by the early 80's allowed us to answer for agencies and organizations after-hours, such as the sexual assault center, the health department, and community mental health. Minimal fees gave PATH more funding.
In 1985, PATH opened outreach services for adults 60 and older. It was a part of our mission, still connecting people to services and support, but now a person went to the home of people needing help. Our success led to services for caregivers and intervention for reported elder abuse. PATH, through Illinois Department on Aging grants, expanded the services to include individuals with disabilities and cases of self-neglect. Over the years, we expanded when funding was available. We currently answer the abuse hotline calls for the Illinois Department on Aging after-hours for the entire state.
Homelessness became prevalent in the 1990s, and we joined the effort to collaborate with other organizations and started outreach services. The Central Illinois Continuum of Care now covers eleven counties, and PATH serves as the lead entity.
In the 1990s, the concept of 2-1-1 was introduced to the nation. It is an easy-to-remember number that connects people with the help they needed in health and human services. In 2009 PATH became the first 2-1-1 center located and serving in three Illinois counties. Currently, these services are available in 52 counties. We proudly serve the following counties:
For questions or to talk to a person at any time, you may dial 2-1-1 if you live in one of the counties we serve. Or click here to access our online database.