211 phone service to help people find community and social services is expanding to Red Deer County in July.
United Way of Central Alberta already provides the 211 phone service in Red Deer to connect residents with information on community and social services provided by non-profits and government.
Previously, Red Deer County residents could only access the 211 service online at ab.211.ca.
“The beauty of the phone line service is that people help you with the search. They are the experts in doing these searches. They can really drill down to the information that you want and get to the information you need,” said United Way executive director Robert Mitchell on Wednesday.
He said 211 staff are trained to ask questions to better understand what information callers want. They are also aware of services that callers may not know exist.
The service connects to the 211 database for the entire province.
“If there isn’t a service available locally in Red Deer, they will know if it’s available in Calgary or Edmonton, for instance.”
Known as a community resource navigator, the one-stop call connects people to community information 24 hours a day, seven days a week that is available in over 200 languages.
He said the phone service receives about 250 calls monthly and due to the economic climate, employment-related information requests have been popular.
Mitchell said more people have started to call, but more people need to be aware that service is available.
FCSS Red Deer & District is contributing $20,000 to expand the phone service to the county and the communities of Bowden, Delburne, Penhold and Elnora.
The Town of Innisfail is also contributing $5,500 to connect its citizens to the phone service.
The expanded service will cost about $125,000 annually to operate.
Mitchell said the service was set to expand into the county on May 30, but the data company that runs the 211 has been busy dealing with increased workload due to the Fort McMurray fire.
A new 211 online chat service was recently introduced due to the wildfire for places that do not have 211 phone service.
“By July everything should be up and going in Red Deer County and major communities there.”