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

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.

Green Shield Canada: Opening Doors to Better Health

Through their Front Line Care strategy, Green Shield Canada has invested $1M over three years to help build 211’s capacity to “open doors to better health” by connecting Canadians to programs and services that address the social determinants of health. Ontario 211 Services is the lead partner in the project, working closely with United Way Canada and Findhelp Information Services, as well as all of the 211 Service Partners in Ontario and in the rest of Canada. Last year, the project team completed pilot work around the follow-up process for vulnerable callers, tracking of caller needs and unmet needs for low-income residents, and building awareness of 211’s capacity within the agency sectors that deal with low-income Canadians. Work has also begun to embed the pilot recommendations into our every day processes for call handling, beginning in Ontario and sharing out to the rest of Canada within the next year. We are grateful for the generous support of Green Shield in this important work.

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, DS 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

Collaboration Develops Community Asset App for Police Services

A partnership between Ryerson University, Toronto Police Services, The City of Toronto and Findhelp/211 Central will improve community policing and help people get the support they need. The Community Asset Portal is a smartphone app developed by students at Ryerson University. It provides a scrollable map of 211 information data that connects 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 will allow officers to immediately find appropriate services for an individual experiencing a mental health crisis.

211 Central South Partners with Niagara Emergency Medical Services

Niagara EMS identified that paramedics often see underlying issues of concern when responding to 911 calls. While they have a protocol to refer patients directly to the CCAC for health-related issues, they were seeking another option for paramedics when they see that a patient has needs related to the social determinants of health (housing, hunger, etc.). As part of this important initiative, Niagara EMS staff received training on 211 and on the social determinants of health. When they identify other needs that patients may have, Niagara EMS will encourage them to call 211 and provide the patient with a 211 referral in writing. Patients are encouraged to tell 211 who referred them and the reason for the referral. This project launched with training in February 2017.

Railway Suicide Prevention – Northumberland County

To offset the many calls for assistance along Northumberland rail lines to local police services and rail police services, Northumberland Safe Communities Committee posted signs they hope will have a high impact on individuals who will stop to read the sign and call 911 or 211 to reach out for help. Northumberland County does not have a 24/7 crisis line and the partnership with 211 will ensure callers get connected to the professional services they need anywhere in Ontario, 24/7 in 150+ languages.

Collaboration Has Helped Community Find Help During Holiday Season

Since 2009, 211 Eastern Region has worked in collaboration with The Caring and Sharing Exchange (C&SE) to help serve clients who need assistance during the Christmas season. Over the years, this partnership has allowed thousands of families to receive aid. It has been rewarding yet challenging as the service demands keep increasing but the system’s capacity remains the same. In 2016, 211 Eastern Region and The Caring and Sharing Exchange worked to develop the details of their existing partnership: objectives can be set to appropriately serve clients, and Information and Referral Specialists are now better equipped to handle these requests.

Helping Students Start the School Year off Right

In 2016, United Way Oxford County, a group of community agencies, big business and 211 Ontario began collaborating to deliver an innovative and efficient school supplies program.  Rather than giving out back packs filled with school supplies, the Supplies 4 Students program provides recipients with a voucher to shop at their local Staples store and pick out exactly what they need to start the school year off right.  Over 200 Oxford residents called 211 to register for this program and it was such a success that it will continue in 2017!

Racism Reporting Line

211 North was invited to join the Incident Response Committee, a joint committee of Diversity Thunder Bay and the City of Thunder Bay’s Anti-Racism & Respect Advisory Committee to explore options for individuals to report incidents of racism in Thunder Bay.  The committee identified the benefits and value of using 211 which offers individual anonymity and confidentiality so is a safe place to report incidents of racism, discrimination, bias and oppression. 211 can also provide referrals appropriate to each individual caller’s needs. Callers would be given the following options to report: by phone, online or in-person. This pilot project would provide baseline data which would help the City to assess and record the magnitude of racism in our community. This project was approved by Thunder Bay City Council and became available June 27, 2017, The project has two main goals: a) to validate a person’s experience; create a place where individuals can say “this happened to me”, and to know that someone is listening; b) begin to track these types of incidents to develop a sense of where and when they’re happening in particular by type; location of occurrence and frequency.

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

Karen Milligan

Executive Director, Ontario 211 Services