211 Reaches the tipping point in Ontario!

    TORONTO, June 25 /CNW/ - 211 is quickly reaching the tipping point where
50% of Ontario residents will have access to the free, confidential referral
service for the resources and help they need to deal with personal and family
issues. Expansion, now underway, will double the number of people with access
to 211 service in the coming months.
    In its Report released today "Onward, Upward, and Outward: 211 Reaches
Out to All of Ontario", United Ways of Ontario demonstrates the tremendous
benefits of 211, the support by the municipal sector, and the need for senior
levels of government to share the very modest cost of less than 3 cents per
day per Ontario resident.
    211 is the three-digit telephone number designated in Canada and the
United States for information on the full range of community, social, health
and related government services. Trained information and referral specialists
assess and match caller needs with appropriate services on a free,
confidential and multi-lingual basis, 24 hours a day.
    Bill Morris, UWO Manager of Government Relations, said that support from
the provincial government has been critical to expanding the reach of 211 to
Ontarians. "With the support of $1.4 million from the Province, Ontario 211
has now developed the infrastructure of a province-wide delivery system. The
three existing sites in Toronto, Niagara Region and Simcoe county will be
joined by five new call centres in Ottawa, Thunder Bay, Windsor, Peel Region
and Halton Region over the next 10 months."
    Currently, the three existing sites serve about 25% of Ontario's
residents. Expansion to eight sites will increase access to over 50% of
Ontarians. National 211 planners hope to achieve 100% coverage across Canada
by 2011. (In the United States, 211 is currently available to two-thirds of
Americans, growing by 50 million in the past year alone.)
    This expansion would not have been possible without support from
municipal governments and local United Ways. "It was very heartening to
witness the commitment by municipal governments in Windsor, Halton, Peel and
Thunder Bay. Municipalities understand the benefits to local communities. But
not all municipalities are in a position to provide funding. Without
additional revenue sources, 211 will provide checker board services, where
some residents can find information readily while others must navigate a
myriad of telephone lines, voice mail systems and help centres. It's really
about fairness."
    Morris also stated that reaching the rest of Ontario requires ongoing
support by the province and other levels of government. "211 is a very
cost-effective means of linking citizens with the information and services
they need. A province-wide service would cost about $1.00 per Ontario resident
per year - less than 3 cents a day. The costs are insignificant, but the
benefits of increasing access to information about community services are
huge. People have a basic right to information and 211 helps make that
    A long-standing obstacle for families and individuals in distress is
finding out where to turn to get the resources to help resolve their problem.
Whether parents with acting-out teenagers, a single mom looking for child
care, a new arrival from a foreign land, 211 provides faster, easier access to
information and services that can help them.
    Equally important, 211 increases community capacity for emergency
preparedness. A recent media article reported that a very high portion of 911
calls are non-emergency in nature (see Toronto Star "Calling 911 Just to
Chat", March 30, 2007). 211 provides information about non-emergency services,
reducing pressure on police, fire and para-medical services. But more than
that, 211 provides additional capacity to deal with crises such as SARS,
blackouts, ice storms, etc.
    Users of 211 confirm its high quality and effectiveness. Nearly 100% of
callers would use 211 again and would recommend the service to family and
friends. Ninety-five percent (95%) of callers followed up on the referral and
89% successfully received the help they were looking for.
    Funders and community service planners will find 211's data gives them a
powerful new tool. Already, the database of services has been used in Toronto
to identify under-served areas. Call tracking will permit 'real time' trend
analysis, and lead to improvements in the delivery of services.
    "We invite the provincial and other levels of government to work
collaboratively with United Way to help implement and sustain a 211 system for
the benefit of all Ontario residents."

    The Ontario211 Report, Q&A, and various sub-reports are available at

For further information:

For further information: Media Contact: Bill Morris, United Ways of
Ontario, 1-800-307-8528, (416) 359-2051, bmorris@uwgt.org

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