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Islanders will soon be able to dial 2-1-1 on their phones and get information about community, social and non-clinical health services and programs quicker and in one place.
“People will be able to call or access the database … and really be able to find the answer to their questions,” said Andrea MacDonald, CEO of the United Way of P.E.I. in Charlottetown on Monday, which was also National 2-1-1 Day.
To help develop the service and an online database, the province is providing $871,000 over three years. As well, the United Way is contributing $46,000 over three years to the project.
“When you’re in a situation that you need help, you don’t know where to turn and who to call. People are calling three or four or five different organizations, sharing their stories, trying to find the right help and being re-directed over and over again. We want to put an end to that.”
The United Way has been trying to bring the service to P.E.I. since 2013. Currently, New Brunswick and Newfoundland are the only provinces without the service.
The number isn’t meant to replace 9-1-1, 8-1-1 or the Kids Help Phone but will work with those services and reduce traffic to those numbers.
“When you’re in a situation that you need help, you don’t know where to turn and who to call. People are calling three or four or five different organizations, sharing their stories, trying to find the right help and being re-directed over and over again. We want to put an end to that.” -Andrea MacDonald, United Way of P.E.I.
The United Way will be hiring staff to build the comprehensive database as well as go across the province and engage communities and organizations to access program information and provide content. Once that is done, there is a period of testing and re-testing to make sure it delivers the information to residents, said MacDonald.
The other aspect of the service is updating information as it changes or is revised on an ongoing basis as well as meeting standards and certifications to make the database in line with other 2-1-1 databases in Canada.
Supporting the 2-1-1 service is a part of the province’s poverty reduction action plan – Belonging and Thriving.
“When someone on P.E.I. needs support services – where to go, who to call or even just understanding what is needed at the moment in time of their life can be very daunting and even under the best circumstances can be extremely challenging,” said Family and Human Services Minister Tina Mundy.
“They will be able to connect to a provincewide system of social support services. This single point of entry and single navigation point will improve how Islanders, particularly those most vulnerable, connect seamlessly to many, many different streams of service across P.E.I.”
Residents will be able to call the 2-1-1 numbers 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Calls are confidential and will be directed to a call centre in Nova Scotia to certified information and referral specialists, which includes nurses and social workers.
Some of the program’s funding will also be used for the call centre service.
MacDonald said the aim is to have the service available by the late fall.