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211 information services provide 'great value' for Simcoe County

Collingwood mayor calls referral service 'a great resource and has been a real benefit to our entire region'
211 and phone turl 2016

Count Simcoe County councillors in for their share of 211 services this year.

On Tuesday, councillors gave initial approval to enter into a 211 agreement in 2020 with Community Connection for $37,500.

“It’s great value on the dollar, in my opinion,” said Steffen Walma, Tiny Township’s deputy-mayor.

The 211 service provides information and referral services for Simcoe County residents while assisting social, health and government services across the region. Community Connections collaborates with various sectors around local initiatives and projects intended to support community well-being.

“For the cost of $37,500…they provide an incredible breadth of services across the region,” said Collingwood Mayor Brian Saunderson, mentioning para-medicine, health and safety issues, food and housing security. “That’s a great resource, and has been a real benefit to our entire region.”

Orillia Coun. Ted Emond praised the support 211 has offered during the pandemic, referring a significant amount of traffic and easing the load within the city.

“It’s a service that has proven exceptionally valuable over the last six, seven months,” he said.

“It’s a service we certainly rely on constantly,” said Orillia Coun. Pat Hehn.

The service agreement includes information and referral specialists, 24/7 call centre services, available in multiple languages, supporting database management and ongoing interface maintenance access to web-based and portal information, marketing and outreach activities, and support to emergency management, through provision of 211 web-based and call data.

Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman said the data is particularly valuable.

“During the pandemic, (211) has been able to provide weekly data on the calls by type they receive,” he said. “That’s been invaluable, because it tells us what gaps are existing in our community and what services people need and are trying to access, and has allowed us as a separated city to try and shape some of our response as well as feeding that back to our partners. 

“(It) is a data source, a planning tool, an additional piece that we might not consider,” Lehman said. “We often think of (211) as a referral service, but they are very much able, by virtue of the information that they collect — all aggregated and private, of course — to provide very good information about the needs in our community.” 

There are six 211 service providers across Ontario — located in Collingwood, Thunder Bay, Ottawa, Toronto, St. Catharines and Windsor. These centres are technologically integrated, thereby enabling province-wide, 24/7, bilingual service.

The recommended funding of $37,500 by Simcoe County comprises 3.4 per cent of the agency’s forecasted operational revenues for the 2020-21 fiscal year.

The province is expected to fund 31.1 per cent or $347,018 of Community Connection’s nearly $1.12-million operational budget, with remaining revenues generated through contributions from the counties of Northumberland, Bruce and Grey, in conjunction with the United Way of Bruce Grey, United Way Simcoe Muskoka, project grants, community development activities and fees for service derived through special projects for which the organization has been contracted.