Vancouver Island getting 211 service in 2017

Central Saanich couple, TELUS give boost to Island-wide United Way campaign for health and social services resource.

Mel Cooper

Seniors, families and individuals looking for services for basic human needs, health care and youth assistance will soon have a single place to turn to on Vancouver Island.

United Way Greater Victoria says it will launch bc211 in April, 2017 — an online and Island-wide source of information on community, non-clinical health and government services — followed by telephone and text access to the service later next year.

To help get 211 on the Island, the United Way has received $80,000 from donors John and  Catherine Windsor of Central Saanich and the TELUS Victoria Community Board. The announced donations came on Monday, Nov. 14 at the Windsors’ de Vine Vineyard in Central Saanich.

For the Windsors, 211 service is needed to help people find resources they might not otherwise know about. They are supporting the program to the tune of $40,000 each year for the next three years.

“In our experience,” said John, “Cathy looked after our aging parents, both of whom had different health challenges. Only after (they died) did we discover more services and support that we didn’t know about. We didn’t know those services were out there.”

John added many people have the same issue — not knowing about services that already exist, but aren’t made readily available.

Under the United Way’s 211 proposal for the Island, there will be a database of such services compiled in an online resource site, accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week, complete with live web chat capabilities and mobile device support. The service will be confidential and free to users. The 211 service has been available in Greater Vancouver since 2010 and plenty of other places in North America, but not Vancouver Island.

United Way Greater Victoria Executive Director Patricia Jelinski said the online directory is being built in anticipation of the April 2017 launch and they are raising money to meet their $1.2 million goal. She added they hope to add the telephone and text option to the service approximately three months later.

“This service can help re-direct calls that would have gone to 911 and take some of the pressure off there,” said Jelinski. “It would even become a potential resource for the police.”

She said 211 helps answer the community’s call for help when the need arises. Similar programs have helped people during the floods in southern Alberta and following the forest fires in Fort MacMurray.

“We believe this is an important service,” sad Mel Cooper, Chair of the TELUS Victoria Community Board. “The bc211 service connects … youth and residents with valuable social services close to home.”

Helping spread the word about bc211 on the Island and across the province, the United Way and Black Press have agreed to work together. Information about bc211 will be shared throughout Black Press’ network of community newspapers and websites across B.C.

To learn more, or to contribute to bringing bc211 to Vancouver Island, visit uwgv.org or call the United Way’s Director of Philanthropy at 250-220-7365.