Over the last decade, call volumes to 911 from individuals seeking help have seen a 30% increase, from 700,000 to 1 million.
Crisis calls, specifically around issues including COVID fatigue, domestic violence, and social disorders, have increased for both 911 and the non-emergency line reports that the overall violent nature surrounding calls has also increased, along with calls relating to suicidal thoughts and attempts.
For anyone who may be unsure of who to call or text when they need non-emergent help throughout Calgary’s long, cold winter, Calgary Police are asking you to consider 211 to ease the burden on 911 call centres. By doing this, you can get connected to the right resource at the right time.
As a free, confidential referral service, 211 operates 365 days a year and is available in more than 170 languages. Recently, the referral line reported a significant number of its calls related to COVID-connected issues, including isolation support and vaccinations.
“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant stress and hardship for our community for nearly two years,” explains Robyn Romano, chief executive officer at Distress Centre Calgary. “[The] 211 [service] has and will continue to be there for Calgarians, and all Albertans, 24/7 during this difficult time, connecting them to resources and supports for whatever issue they’re dealing with.”
When you call, chat, or text 211 in Alberta, you can get connected to more than 9,800 helpful services in the province. This vast network includes social, health, community, and government services.
On the other end of the phone or computer, every call is answered by a professional community resource specialist — an individual trained to assess what your need and refer you to the most appropriate service or services.
“There are many issues that are urgent and distressing but not considered an emergency for 911 to respond to,” says Romano.
“If someone is experiencing depression, anxiety, or another mental health issue, but no one is in immediate, life-threatening danger, then calling 911 is not the most appropriate option. But this is still an urgent and distressing issue and they need to connect with help as soon as possible. By contacting 211, [the caller] will speak to a live person who can connect them with mental health resources and services.”
In what instances could you call 211? If you need food, shelter, transportation, mental health support, or financial support to help pay your utility bills, rent, or damage deposit, you can reach out to 211.
The same applies if you’re concerned about a friend or family member, if you need information about government programs, if you wish to volunteer for an organization, or if you’re unsure of where to look for legal support.
Additionally, if you’re looking for services for a client you’re working with or if you wish to locate resources for donating furniture or clothing, you can contact 211.
“If there is an emergency, don’t hesitate to call 911,” says Romano. “For guidance and information on a non-emergent, non-violent issue, contact 211. Both 211 and 911 are here for Albertans 24 hours a day.”
If you’re unsure of who to call this season or at any point in the future, you might need 211. To reach the referral service at any time of day, you have three easy options: dial 2-1-1, text INFO to 211, or visit ab.211.ca and click “live chat.”
In the meantime, you can visit 211 Alberta to find a comprehensive list of helpful services and programs in your local community.