February 11 is 211 Day across North America, a day for United Way, 211 service providers, and their supporters to raise awareness of this valuable service in the community and across the province.
According to the United Way, 211 launched in Kingston and the surrounding area in 2010. Locally funded by the United Way of KFL&A and the City of Kingston, 211 helps residents in Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington (KFL&A) connect with the right services at the right time, providing an important gateway to community, social, non-clinical health, and related government services.
“The 211 service helps people learn about government, community and support programs, including all the programs supported by United Way,” said Bhavana Varma, President and CEO of United Way KFL&A. “211 is a lifeline for those difficult life circumstances anyone of us might encounter. Our community and government agencies offer many services. 211 addresses one of the challenges people face, helping them know where to turn.”
The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Prince Edward County Detachment is also increasing awareness for the United Way’s 211 program today, saying that 211 acts as the front door to support by helping people navigate the complex network of government and community programs and services.
According to the OPP, 211 is Canada’s primary source of information for government and community-based, non-clinical health and social services. The service is not only available in English, but in 150 languages, and runs 365 days a year. The OPP explained that, when you dial 211, you are connected with a trained professional who will listen to you and help you find the right information and supports near you.
“211 is an excellent tool that contributes to the OPP’s commitment to public safety, and OPP officers all across the Province use it each and every day,” said Detachment Commander Staff Sergeant John Hatch. “While the initial crisis may be dealt with, individuals are often provided with the 211 information for following up with system navigation assistance. The COVID-19 pandemic has exemplified the need for this great service and has assisted many people in need of support for the first time in their lives.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the value of 211, according to the United Way. With government programs changing regularly, and community-based programs and services adapting to meet evolving public health guidelines, the organization said that 211 helps people navigate the complex network of support.
Calls, texts, chats and emails to 211 increased by 17 per cent in 2021, with Community Navigators answering more than 350,000 inquiries from Ontarians looking for help finding information, programs, services or government supports, according to the release. In KFL&A, the United Way said that over 17,000 individuals were helped through the service last year.
“The pandemic has put many people in the position of needing support for the first time in their lives,” added Varma. “They can dial 2-1-1 and talk to somebody who can help them sort through information to figure out what will work for their unique situation.”
Observed annually, 211 Day reminds residents how to ’make the right call.’ The United Way said that encouraging people to dial 2-1-1 for non-emergency services can help reduce congestion on 911 dispatch lines, and help ensure they are accessing the right type of assistance. Visit 211.ca for more information.