Online 211 service launched

Information on social services in Central Alberta is now only a click away at www.ab.211.ca.

Information on social services in Central Alberta is now only a click away at www.ab.211.ca.

United Way of Central Alberta launched an online 211 service on Tuesday to connect Central Albertans with details on community and social services provided by non-profits and government.

Robert Mitchell, United Way of Central Alberta CEO, said it’s not just a list of phone numbers and website addresses.

“You’re going to get information about the organization. You’re going to get information about programs, where they’re located, its referral services, times they’re available.

“It’s very detailed information. It’s more than what you’ll find on 411 or in the phone book,” Mitchell said at Tuesday’s launch.

“We’re putting all the data in one place. Not only that, we’re categorizing it correctly so it’s easier to find.”

Data will be regularly updated.

Maintaining the online service will cost United Way of Central Alberta $35,000 annually.

Red Deer joins Edmonton and area, Calgary and area, and the regional municipality of Wood Buffalo in providing 211 online.

Mitchell said the value of the 211 service to Southern Alberta was clear during last summer’s flood in High River and Calgary.

“It really is a momentous day. There are about 1,600 records in the data base for Central Alberta. Now we have access to that 24/7.”

United Way of Central Alberta also hopes to launch a free and confidential 211 phone service for Central Alberta in the next 12 months through a funding partnership with local municipalities on a per capita basis and businesses.

The 211 phone service will cost $120,000 annually.

The phone service would see an operator guiding individuals towards services they may require.

In Canada, 211 is available both online and by phone in Nova Scotia, Ontario, Manitoba, and most of British Columbia.

Mitchell said 211 calls will also help to identify gaps and demands in services for municipalities.

Kath Hoffman, executive director of Central Alberta’s Safe Harbour Society for Health and Housing, said 211 will provide a good snapshot of needs within the community as well as assist Safe Harbour staff and clients to find appropriate services.

About a month ago, Red Deer city council advocated for the Alberta 211 service.

Mayor Tara Veer said 211 will ultimately help citizens get the right supports at the right time.

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