‘211’ service up and running

Peggy Revell

Residents now can dial “211” if they’re looking for information on the multitude of social, community, health, and government services available to them across the district.
“All the residents of the Rainy River District, who fall under the umbrella of the Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board, will be able to, as of [Monday], get answers and/or referrals to just about any question that a citizen can think of asking related to who does what, where it happens, and how do I get to it,” DSSAB chair Mike Lewis said at the official launch yesterday afternoon at the Fort Frances Library Technology Centre.
The arrival of 211 here—which also is available online at www.211north.ca­—comes as the service expands across the province.
In Rainy River District, it has been made possible due to the partnership between the local DSSAB, the Northwest Community Legal Clinic, and the Lakehead Social Planning Council, which operates 211 for the Northern Region.
“People call 211 for a lot of reasons,” said Marie Klassen, director of services with the LSPCC, which has overseen the growth of 211 to various regions in Northern Ontario.
“Some simply need a phone number to a community program while others call because they need to talk over a program,” she noted.
“Every call is different.”
211 is free to call, multi-lingual, and confidential, and can provide residents with information on programs and services which they may need—whether it’s finding employment services, utility and rent assistance, or accessing emergency food programs, recreation groups, parenting classes, support groups, and more.
“Everyone who we’ve encountered along the way, once you tell them what 211 is about, has been really supportive,” said Trudy McCormick, executive director with the Northwest Community Legal Clinic, which will be working to keep district information in the 211 database up to date.
Calls to 211 always will connect a person with another live person, added McCormick.
During office hours, calls will be directed to a certified information and referral specialist in Thunder Bay.
McCormick said after-hours calls are directed to a call centre in Toronto because there isn’t enough demand yet in the north to have funding for a 24-hour service.
And while 211 is helpful to individuals, it also is useful for service providers looking to connect their clients with more services they are in need of, McCormick added.
“Instead of sending someone away to make three or four or five more calls or stops, and get lost in referral fatigue, I can actually [use 211] to hook somebody up to information that they need, whether it’s through that live phone call to someone in Thunder Bay or looking online,” she explained.