From the simplicity of the three-digit number, to the comprehensive database of human services, to the expertise and professionalism of 211 Information & Referral Specialists, community and government partners are leveraging 211 to enhance access to information and services for their residents.

Read on to explore innovative examples of this collaboration at a local, regional and provincial level.

If you are interested in how you can leverage 211 for the benefit of your community or initiative, please contact Karen Milligan, Executive Director at Ontario 211 Services.

Provincial Partnerships 2017-2018

In the last year, our regional partners leveraged 211’s system capacity to improve Ontario residents’ access to human services. They were able to take advantage of our professional navigation, as well as, community information and data to render 211 service delivery more efficient. With pressure growing on health and social services, partnerships like these are great examples of collaborations that will have a lasting impact.

Enhanced Navigation and Referrals: Improving Health & Well-Being

Health Care Practitioners

211 is working in the intersections between health and social services to improve access to community support – enabling more people to live independently in the community for as long as possible.  From an e-referral process in South Georgian Bay, to the Centre for Effective Practice’s clinical poverty screening tool for Primary Care Providers, 211 is providing organizations with more options to improve how they connect patients to community support services.

Community Paramedics

Community paramedics across Ontario are finding innovative ways to keep people living independently in the community.  Community paramedicine programs keep people out of hospitals and long-term care homes in many ways, whether it be visiting isolated seniors in their homes in rural communities to check for safety concerns, or checking in on the well-being of older adults in urban centres with chronic conditions. 211 works with community paramedics to connect people to community-based supports that can help them stay well. 211 referral programs were piloted last year in Simcoe County, York Region and Niagara.

Energy Poverty

Utility assistance continues to be one of 211 callers’ most frequently identified needs. In some communities, 211 continued to provide appointment bookings or intake for programs such as LEAP, OESP and the new Affordability Fund for electricity consumers struggling with energy costs. In addition, 211 worked with the Affordability Fund Trustees to engage with the community sector to seek advice on how to increase awareness of the support available for residents.

Green Shield

In the final year of the Green Shield Canada project, Opening Doors to Better Health, we focused on building our capacity to connect people across the country with services that address the social determinants of health. We enhanced our data collection capacity and can now consistently report on the needs and unmet needs of 211 callers – in particular, the working poor.

Homelessness Prevention and Support

211 continues to work with several communities on local protocols to help connect homeless youth (or youth at risk of being homeless) to local agencies and housing coordinators. 211 is promoted as a number that is easy to remember for youth to contact if they need help with housing or related supports. These might include help finding employment, education/re-training, mental health services, family counselling, and life skills programming.

Specialized Phone Lines

In addition to continuing to deliver high-quality phone services for the Good2Talk helpline and ReportON service last year, we also took on a few new specialty lines, leveraging our cloud-based phone platform and the highly-trained 211 Navigators to provide an efficient and effective solution for service delivery.

Human Trafficking

In February 2018, Ontario’s Ministry of Community and Social Services announced the creation of a 24/7 helpline for victims of Human Trafficking. 211 Navigators in Central Region were trained extensively on different forms of human trafficking, how to handle victim calls, how to work with police, and what programs were the most critical for assisting those who might call the helpline. The new line went live February 22 and continues to be answered by our highly skilled 211 Navigators.

Basic Income Pilot

211 has been working with Ontario’s Ministry of Community and Social Services to support the province’s Basic Income Pilot in three communities: Hamilton, Lindsay and Thunder Bay. We provided training to Basic Income Pilot staff on how to best support the broader needs of pilot participants. 211 also provided appointment booking services by phone for those interested in participating in information sessions, or having information sent to them by mail.

Data Sharing for Social Benefit

Poverty Screening EMR

In partnership with the Centre for Effective Practice and funded through the Ontario Poverty Reduction Strategy, 211 worked with Family Health Teams in five communities to pilot the integration of the Poverty Screening Tool into their patients’ electronic medical record, including a customized printout of resources based on where they live, and their answers to the screening questions. The list of resources is generated using 211 Ontario’s public API (application program interface). Watch this great video about the project, and learn more about the UK-based Social Prescribing Model being explored through projects like this one.

Benefits Screening Tool

Prosper Canada is working with Dr. Andrew Pinto at The Upstream Lab (Centre For Urban Health Solutions, St. Michael’s Hospital) to enhance a clinical tool that physicians can use to help determine what Government benefits or other supports may be available to patients to ease their financial burden, with the objective of exploring whether this tool can improve overall health and well-being.  211’s resource data is shared electronically through our public API to provide the full scope of financial and other assistance programs available to a  patient.

Research projects

211 resource and caller needs data has also been shared with several researchers and Ontario institutions exploring issues like transportation in rural communities, isolation of seniors in Eastern Ontario, energy poverty, availability of low-cost dental services, and other unmet needs of residents in urban and rural communities.  We also continued to work with partners such as the Rural Ontario Institute, the Community Data Program, the Canadian Index of Wellbeing, the United Way, and municipal planners to improve the usefulness of 211 needs data in informing decision-making and program investments.

CUPW Special Needs Project

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) funds a program for its members who have children with special needs. Its aim is to help reduce the emotional, financial and physical stresses of caring for children with disabilities on working parents. Using 211 resource data, we are working with CUPW to develop a specialized portal for their members to search for services and access other types of applicable information and resources. In its initial phase, the project is scheduled to launch in late 2018/early 2019, and the portal will only be available to CUPW members in Ontario and Nova Scotia. Following that, the goal is to create a national portal within the next 2 to 3 years.

Ministry of Community and Social Services

Ontario 211 Services is working closely with Ministry of Community and Social Services to improve services in priority areas by providing an easy channel for people to access support. From the front-end assessment and referral of callers to the ReportON service, to playing a support role for those involved in the Basic Income Pilot, to assisting in the development of a Human Trafficking help line, 211 is recognized as a valuable part of the solution to important social issues facing the Province.

Good2Talk – 211 Becomes Front Door to Service

Good2Talk is a post-secondary mental health helpline for Ontario students who are struggling with mental health issues. The service provides 24/7 support, including access to professional counsellors or specialized information and referral to mental health and addictions programs. Funded by Ontario’s Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development, the service is well-used by students with more than 40,000 calls handled since its launch. In January of 2016, 211 became the front door for Good2Talk by answering the 1-800 line and directing callers to Kids Help Phone for counselling or to ConnexOntario for specialized information and referral. Ontario’s Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health continues to oversee program evaluation – and the feedback thus far has been very positive.

211 and DSO Toronto Region – Call Centre Integration

211 has partnered with Surrey Place in Toronto to integrate the Developmental Services Ontario (DSO) Toronto Region support line with 211’s helpline in an effort to improve service for families who need developmental, caregiver or other support services. In the Fall of 2015, our 211 Central Region contact centre began to answer the first call to DSO Toronto’s office and flowing to them only those clients who require, and are eligible for Developmental Services. To date, feedback from DSO staff and clients has been positive. Many appreciate the ability to speak with a live voice 24/7 that can explain what is available, and if eligible, connect them to a DSO case-worker for program support.

The model is working well in the Toronto region, and work is underway to expand the program to other parts of Ontario.

Regional Partnerships – Powering Community Initiatives

Community Asset App for Police Services Launched

A partnership between Ryerson University, Toronto Police Services, The City of Toronto and Findhelp/211 Central has given community policing another tool to help people get the support they need. The Community Asset Portal is a smartphone app, developed by students at Ryerson University, which provides a scrollable map of 211 data, connecting officers to community support services including shelters, mental-health services in their area and 211 Specialists at 211 Central. The app is an easy-to-use portal that allows officers to find appropriate services immediately for an individual experiencing a mental health crisis.

211 Central South Provides Scheduling for Community Income Tax Clinics Pilot

For many years, 211 Central South has worked in partnership with the United Way of Niagara Falls and Greater Fort Erie in helping people file their taxes, and access important financial benefits, through the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program. In addition to providing support in navigating services and finding income tax clinics, 211 Central South offered appointment scheduling to callers.  This year, through a pilot project, the partnership expanded to include six other community partners. A key benefit of this pilot was the increased support and linkage to services for individuals who called 211 to schedule their tax appointment. Through this pilot, we helped to increase the capacity of local organizations to conduct income tax clinics. Over 1300 tax returns were filed and over three million dollars in benefits accessed for struggling families.

211 Central East Supports Mental Health Crisis Line for Children and Youth

A partnership with 211 has been key for service providers in Muskoka, Parry Sound and Nipissing in launching a new 24/7, bilingual mental health crisis line for children, youth, their families, caregivers and service providers.  211’s Community Navigators answer the toll-free line, listen to the needs of callers and follow prescribed protocols to connect each caller to the right help. 211 brings value to this partnership as their teams are already trained in crisis intervention and mediated assessment. 211 is also 24/7, bilingual, and has the technical infrastructure to support on-boarding specialized lines which make this 24/7 crisis line affordable for small populations like Muskoka, Parry Sound and Nipissing.

211 Eastern Region Connects with the County of Prescott-Russell during Floods

When the Spring floods of 2017 affected many regions in the County of Prescott-Russell, 211 Eastern Region reached out to the most affected municipality of Clarence-Rockland to offer assistance in handling inquiries from those affected by the floods. Since then, ongoing meetings are being held to document the needs identified during this event, to inform municipalities of the role 211 can play in times of emergencies, and emergency protocols are being developed. Through these initiatives, 211 has demonstrated they can play an essential supporting role during a local emergency.


211 South West Helps Community Agencies Organize After Heavy Flooding

In August 2017, the Windsor-Essex area was hit with a hundred-year rainstorm. Close to 7,000 Windsor, Tecumseh and Lakeshore residents were affected and reported significant flooding in their homes and property. As waters receded and the scope of the damage to personal property became evident, 211 reached out to several community agencies to determine what supports would be available to assist residents in the aftermath of the flood. Volunteer opportunities were identified for those willing and able to help with post-disaster clean-up, including the removal and disposal of damaged items, as well as building repairs to ensure homes were safe from mould and contaminants. Samaritan’s Purse sent a disaster relief unit to assist with this effort and volunteers were connected with seniors and others needing help. Other agencies offered cleaning supplies, assistance with filling out disaster aid applications, furniture donations, financial supports and information on disaster preparedness. This was truly a collaborative effort with various partners working together to provide the physical, emotional and financial supports needed by those affected by the disaster.

Barriers to Early Assessment & Treatment (BEAT)

The NorthBEAT project, a collaborative system of health, mental health and sector-specific service providers, aims to address barriers to early assessment and treatment (BEAT) for youth experiencing psychosis in Northwestern Ontario. In 2017, 211 North assisted the project coordinating team with enhancing the mental health care system for youth with psychosis by mapping different pathways to mental health care and identifying the community resources available to youth and their families. NorthBEAT’s primary objective is to increase collaboration and improve coordination within the system as well as expand its capacity to better meet the needs of youth experiencing psychosis.  This regional network will help co-design resources, develop a community service inventory with maps, and integrate Early Psychosis Intervention into policy and practice. The project will continue until Spring 2021 and will give 211 the opportunity to educate community partners and community members about the value of 211 in Northwestern Ontario.

To leverage 211 for the benefit of your community or initiative, contact:

Karen Milligan

Executive Director, Ontario 211 Services