When the outbreak of COVID hit two years ago this spring, 211 saw an increased call volume of 70% by the end of 2021. The team answered queries on the latest public health regulations, coping with social isolation, childcare challenges, and, far too often, finding help for suicidal ideations. Calls to 211 increased even further in 2021, with Calgary Distress Centre CEO Robyn Romano calling it “the busiest we’ve ever seen it.”
For over 15 years, 211 Calgary has supported our community with professional and compassionate service. Launching under the umbrella of the Calgary Distress Centre in 2005, the United Way initiative serves as a database and helpline of community and social services powered by highly-trained staff and volunteers. 211 offers information on everything from mental health resources, family services, legal aid, employment seeking and disability supports to volunteer and donation opportunities.
On February 11, aka “211 day”, the service is looking ahead with a positive outlook, as it enters a trial project with Calgary Police Service and 911. The 5-month program will see 211 staff collocating with their CPS counterparts to connect some 911 calls to 211 when the caller expresses the need to speak to someone about mental health, addiction, or other resourcing issues is no emergency or need for police.
In honour of 211 Day, we sat down in conversation with Robyn Romano, CEO of the Calgary Distress Centre, to discuss pandemic challenges and the new initiative with Calgary Police Services.
We are proud to call the Calgary Distress Centre and 211 our partners. These essential services continue to give our community support and guidance when it needs it the most thanks to your support.