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News : Valley Moving Toward Adopting 211 Service
Bow Valley, AB, Sept 18, 2014 -- The Bow Valley may soon have an after hours social services phone line to help those seeking help for themselves or others outside of regular office hours.
Calgary and Edmonton already have a 211 service, which people can call anytime when they need to access social services or agencies and they don’t know where to go or who to call.
Canmore Family and Community Support Services supervisor Tara Gilchrist said along with Banff and the MD of Bighorn, the hope is to get the service up and running in the Bow Valley next year.
Gilchrist said there is a real gap in services for residents and visitors when FCSS offices close their doors at 4:30 p.m. on weekdays and are closed on weekends.
"As a result of that, we started looking at some services that can fill that gap," she said, adding the need in the community for this type of services goes beyond those who are new to the valley. "What we found when we started digging a little bit deeper was in fact domestic violence, people who flee from their spouse, are not aware of where the resources are."
Gilchrist said if people in those situations need assistance on the weekends or after office hours, there is currently no service to direct them to the right social agency for help.
"We thought this (need) was primarily for newcomers or people passing through, but we found it was for both, as there is a high need to access that information by local residents," she said.
The 211 service has operated in Edmonton and Calgary since 2005 – both are backed by the United Way. In Calgary, the Distress Centre operates the service and call centre and Gilchrist said the proposal is to contract them to provide it for the Bow Valley. It is like 911, in that dialing the three numbers connects you to social needs help 24/7.
"I have no doubt whatsoever that this service is needed and I am very happy to see that it is at the stage that it is," said Canmore Councillor Sean Krausert.
While a steering committee has been working on expanding 211 service across Alberta, Gilchrist said the Bow Valley has the need now for a 24-hour service.
"The Bow Valley feels like we don’t really have time to wait – the need is there, the gap is there, so how can we get services here in our community?" she said.
Regional FCSS groups would play an active role in the initial collection of community resource information for the service provider, Gilchrist said. They would also market the service in the Bow Valley.
She said Distress Centre, in addition to providing information to those who call and offering a 24-hour call centre, would provide quarterly reports that would include important data for local social services.
Because of its nature, Gilchrist said the service has to be funded with municipal tax dollars and not through grant funds FCSS receives from the province. It is broken up into two categories: set up and data maintenance, and call volume.
The first phase would see Canmore and Banff pay 40 per cent of the cost each and the MD of Bighorn 20 per cent. Call volume is based on the 2011 census with Canmore budgeted to cover 58 per cent, Banff 36 per cent and Bighorn six per cent.
Gilchrist said after the service is implemented, each municipality will pay for its actual call volume. For 2015, she said, administration is budgeting for $8,252 for setup and half a year of call volume and in 2016, $9,545.
The valley’s FCSS organizations are hoping to access grant funds for the proposed service and Gilchrist said she will know by the end of October if it is available. If not, she said administration will ask council to fund the service in the budget.
"As soon as we have secure funding we can start the process of collecting data then it could be anywhere from two to six months to get up and running," she said.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Friday, September 19, 2014