Help is only a phone call away – Make the right call.

By Mary Wilson Trider and Karen Miligan

In Lanark County, 911 is the right number to call for medical emergencies, a crime in progress or a fire – situations when help from trained professionals is urgently required.

People also call 911 or visit the Emergency Department because they don’t know where to go for important but non-urgent medical needs, such as such as colds or general aches and pains. Some patients who come to the Emergency Department are feeling anxious and need to talk to someone. These calls take paramedics, doctors, nurses and other emergency responders away from potentially serious or life-threatening emergencies.

211 is an easy-to-remember 3-digit number, answered by a live, friendly voice 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 211 specialists are professionally trained to assess needs, identify options for services available close to home, and provide guidance about program eligibility, transportation options, financial assistance and more. 211 provides service in more than 150 languages through a tele-interpreter.

Some people call 211 to find programs and services for themselves, but many call about help for an aging parent, a child suffering from mental health challenges, or an elderly neighbour who needs assistance with things such as snow shovelling. The most frequent calls tend to be for health services, housing, income and financial assistance, food & meals, legal assistance and community-based social or wellness programs.

211 is available to everyone in Ontario. It is a free service, supported by the Province of Ontario, United Way agencies (including United Way Lanark County) and many municipalities. Information about local services is collected and maintained by local agencies with a deep understanding of the services available, and the unique needs of each community. There are also many helplines and programs located in other areas but serving all residents of Ontario. 211 specialists can refer callers to those as well.

Last year, more than half a million people in Ontario called 211 for help. Caller satisfaction is extremely high. 99% of callers say they are satisfied with the 211 service; 84% of callers followed-up on the referrals they were given, and 89% of those callers say they got the help they needed from the agency they were referred to.

Finding help is easier when you make the right call. Call 211 today to find out about programs and services available to meet your needs.

Mary Wilson Trider is President & CEO of the Almonte General Hospital

Karen Milligan is Director, Partnership Development and Strategic Initiatives of Ontario 211 Service