Link to social services urged

The provincial government should get behind a free call line connecting callers to a full range of social, health, community and government services, says Red Deer city manager Craig Curtis.

The provincial government should get behind a free call line connecting callers to a full range of social, health, community and government services, says Red Deer city manager Craig Curtis.

Curtis said the government must show commitment to the 211 service first before Red Deer gets behind the initiative that has been rolled out in six municipalities so far.

The City of Red Deer has submitted a resolution to the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association so it can press the province to consider dollars to provide 211 service to all Albertans.

“We should have a provincewide network and standard for doing this to avoid what’s happened in Ontario, where you basically have 211 regions,” said Curtis later.

In order to bring 211 to all Albertans, dollars are needed for ongoing operating.

Dawna Morey, president of the Association of Information and Referral Services of Alberta, told city council on Monday that future funding would be cost-shared with provincial, federal and municipal governments, and United Way organizations. A provincial 211 service is expected to cost about $3 million to launch and ongoing costs of about $3.8 million annually.

If the province provides clear direction, Curtis said the city could prepare for 211 service by enhancing the community’s database for information. One objective of 211 service is to provide one database of information.

Morey, CEO of the Community Information and Referral Society in Red Deer, explained this service would help the public in many ways.

“Have you wondered how to find a community service when you have someone who needs help?” said Morey. “One of the biggest challenges is where to find help.”

Morey said the 211 line would be a single point of access and is available 24 hours a day, every day. The service is also accessed through an online database of resources, including InformAlberta.

The number is easy to remember and would prevent inappropriate calls from going to the 911 emergency number, Morey said.

“It also eliminates duplication of services,” she added.

The 211 Alberta Initiative was first created in Calgary and is now being delivered to residents in Chestermere, Cochrane, Edmonton, Parkland County, Leduc and Strathcona County. The goal is to link two 211 centres — in Calgary and Edmonton — and extend the service to all communities.

During 2009, Edmonton and region recorded 48,000 calls, while Calgary received 40,000.

Top calls centred on basic needs, financial distress, government services, and people wishing to volunteer or donate.

ltester@bprda.wpengine.com