"People need a better way to access hope and support through a system that doesn’t need to be re-created but only needs to be connected."
That's Catherine Woodman, president and CEO of United Way Halifax Region, speaking about the need for a 211 service in this Province.
So tell me, how do you feel about automated telephone answering systems? What about the labyrinth of voice mail from hell when you are trying to access or locate a particular government service? How would you like to try to access those same services if you were new to the province or had a disability?
Might you be interested in something that could short-circuit that process? Might you be interested in a service like 211?
211 is personal telephone access to information about the full range of social services offered in a local community. It is especially valuable to seniors, newcomers and persons with disabilities trying to navigate the maze of services delivered by multiple levels of government and private providers.Apparently the United Way has been advancing the project in Nova Scotia since 2004. They have now been joined by 181 other social and health organizations across the province, including community health boards, regional libraries, family resource centres, food banks, seniors’ centres, churches and fire departments.
Today residents in large cities like Toronto, Edmonton and Calgary, as well as smaller cities such as Windsor, Niagara Falls and Simcoe have access to 211, 24-7. Callers always talk to people and never a machine. Three more 211 initiatives will launch in 2008 in Ottawa, Thunder Bay and Quebec City. The premier of British Columbia has recently announced the commitment to the first provincewide 211 service in the throne speech.
Certainly, Lisa Elliott understands. Two years ago, Lisa’s life was turned upside down when both her parents developed major health problems at the same time. Among other services, they needed help with meals, housework, getting to appointments and snow shovelling.Can you identify with those sentiments? Would you be surprised to learn that a recent poll revealed that 86per cent of Nova Scotians support a 211 system and 66 per cent stated they would use it?
Finding help was just as stressful as providing the help herself. Lisa began spending her evenings, weekends and lunch hours making phone calls and searching the Internet for the support she needed. "I felt very alone, very helpless." Lisa says. "I was so completely burnt out that I was physically exhausted. I ended up sick for an entire winter because my immune system was so compromised. I wish there had been a 211 service and I could have called to discuss my situation and found out what I could do. I had no idea where to turn."
You can find more information on 211 at the United Way website.