211 is a free, confidential information and referral service for thousands of community and social services available across the province. It is available throughout the province – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year – by dialing “2-1-1” to speak to a helpful staff member or by searching the easy-to-use online database at www.ns.211.ca.

211 is for people from all walks of life, seeking information about community and social services in their community or throughout the Province, either for themselves or for someone else. For example, it could be used by someone seeking home care support for a senior citizen, a teenager looking for job-seeking skills, a recent immigrant needing language and employment training, or a person with disabilities determining which local or government services are available in their community. 

211 has collected detailed information on over 3,000 community and social services and programs delivered throughout the Province by local community groups, non-profit agencies and government departments. The information at 211 is organized by “need” – not by who delivers the service – this makes it much easier to search. Importantly, 211 is dedicated to working everyday to expand the list of services and to ensure it is always accurate.

When a difficult social situation is being faced for the first time, the path to overcoming it might not seem obvious. Finding home care for an aging parent, dealing with a troubled teenager or experiencing an addiction or job loss are just a few examples of the hundreds of possible social situations that aren’t a normal part of life for most people. That’s where 211 comes in. The team at 211 has solutions that are a call or a “click” away and are there to help people navigate the network of services to find the right ones. Even for problems that might seem trivial, like coping with loneliness or adjusting to a new part of life in Nova Scotia, 211 is here to help.

211 service has many benefits:

  • Callers can easily and quickly connect to the services they need, anywhere in the province, regardless of where they are located.
  • 211 is easy to remember, reducing confusion, frustration and delay that can come from trying to search for services.
  • 211 has also been proven to reduce congestion on 911 lines.
  • 211 helps identify service gaps, duplication, and emerging trends to help policy decision makers direct the right resources and services to where they are most needed.

Starting with the new telephone directories, to be published in April 2013, the first page of the telephone directory will contain a quick reference guide with details on the following services:

211 – Community and social services

311 – Halifax Regional Municipality Government information & services

511 – Provincial road conditions in Nova Scotia

811 – Health information and advice
 

There are hundreds of not for profit organizations in Nova Scotia, in addition to scores of government agencies. When individuals go without help because they are unaware of services available to them, our communities waste valuable resources and people fail to get the support they need. With 211, communities can address the diverse needs of their residents and ensure increased coordination among services, identify gaps and overlaps in services by geographic mapping, and track human service usage. By providing a centralized point of information, 211 will help ensure the most efficient use of community resources. 

One of the significant value-added elements of 211 is its online database that, for the first time, provides easy-to-access and easy-to-search information on every social service and program in the province. With this new and very powerful tool at their fingertips, Nova Scotia’s many service providers will be able to quickly direct people to services that are outside of their organization’s scope or area of expertise. It will also allow them to discover and connect with other service providers whose goals and mandates complement their own, building stronger community networks.

Telephone books are helpful but they don’t tell the full story. Many organizations provide multiple services and providers are not listed by each service, nor are the services always reflected in the organization’s name. 211 maintains an extensive database of services that includes information on how to access the service. Importantly, 211 specialists can assist callers in ways that a directory of services cannot, by fully understanding their needs and helping them find the appropriate services.

A province-wide 211 service will ensure that all people – regardless of where they live – will have equal access to information. For example, this would allow a resident in Halifax to easily identify home support options for their father in Kentville, or assist an immigrant in finding services once they move from Truro to Sydney. 

Both costs and benefits are optimized with a province-wide approach. Furthermore, the overall goal is to eventually have 211 services across Canada. By having a province-wide service, it is much easier to plug into a national network, providing rapid and effective service for all Canadians.

Nova Scotia Power and Bell Aliant, two of the Provinces largest utilities, have provided startup funding to 211.

Once fully operational in 2014, the operating costs are expected to be approximately $1 million annually. The Province of Nova Scotia has committed to funding 95 per cent of the operating cost of 211 through to 2016. The remaining five per cent of costs are provided by the United Ways in Nova Scotia.
 

With the launch of 211 service in Nova Scotia, 60 per cent of Canadians, (20,000,000 people) now have access to 211 services. Centers are located throughout Ontario and British Columbia, Edmonton, Calgary, and Quebec City. In the United States, 211 serves over 80 per cent of the population, with 244 active systems in 48 states.

Comprehensive research on the costs and benefits of 211 systems has been conducted in both the US and Canada. United Ways in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, British Columbia and Ontario have worked with a number of organizations, including Deloitte, to develop specific business cases and identify the potential of a 211 service. These studies, including one in Nova Scotia, confirm the strength of the 211 business case and the inherent value of the service.

Each of the studies concluded that the measurable benefits of a national 211 system outweigh the costs by a significant margin. Everyone – the public, governments, and service providers – stand to realize substantial benefits from the time and cost savings that 211 can provide.
 

The role of the 211 specialist is to talk through situations with people who are not looking for, and do not need, immediate intervention. If it becomes apparent that they do need immediate intervention, the 211 specialist is trained to route the call to 911.

All contact to 211, whether by email, online query or phone, is confidential. Information and Referral Specialists do not collect identifying information such as name or address. Although an electronic record is made of each call taken, it is just for statistical purposes and non-identifying. The Information and Referral Specialist will ask for the community in which the caller lives, in order that an appropriate referral can be made.  

To be truly accessible, people need to be able to get information at all times of the day, whenever they may need it most. While they may not always be able to link with the services themselves at that hour, they can get the necessary information about the services, its location, contact information and hours to provide solutions and peace of mind. Alternatively, there are also certain community services that are available 24 hours a day that may be applicable to the caller’s need and 211 would assist them in sourcing those promptly.

Given the rural nature of much of Nova Scotia, locating services so that they are accessible to everyone is often a challenge. If 211 does not have information on a service within a caller’s community, the Information and Referral Specialistwill help find those services closest to where they live.

Also, 211 collects important information on needs that are not being met either because services are not available or because the demands are greater than can be met by existing services. 211 provides this vital information to planners who are then are able to use it to better understand where the needs are and how service delivery can be improved to meet those needs.
 

The services provided by 211 will be accessible to people in the hearing impaired community through an application called Textnet . Hearing impaired persons will access 211 in Nova Scotia through a different toll free number – 1-888-692-1382.

Textnet is an Internet-based service that replaces TTY device technology. It’s a digital, Centrex-like telephone service that seamlessly integrates the telephone network, the local data network and the Internet to provide fully accessible text communications.
 

To learn more about 211 Nova Scotia, visit the website www.ns.211.ca, call (902)466-5721 or email info@ns.211.ca.

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