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Manitoba 211 reports busy launch for new phone service during coronavirus

Manitoba's 211 phone line went live in October and has seen more than 2,000 callers. Dayne Winter / Global News

More than 2,000 Manitobans have called 211 for help reaching health, social, and government resources since its launch as a phone service this fall.

Originally created through a partnership between United Way Winnipeg and Volunteer Manitoba in 2017, 211’s services had previously only been available as a web-based platform.

Read more: Thousands of Manitobans reaching out for mental health support amid COVID-19 pandemic

That all changed when the phone number officially went live across the province in October.

“(We’re) definitely seeing a huge need for the service,” explained Jodene Baker, director of impact, innovation and evaluation with United Way Winnipeg.

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“If you’re anywhere in Manitoba, you can pick up the phone and dial 211 and you will get connected to a real person, a community navigator, who will listen to your needs and connect you to those services and programs right in your community.”

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211 Manitoba is a free, confidential service that connects people in the province with thousands of agencies, programs and services, including mental health, addictions, homelessness and safety resources.

With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to cause stress for many, Baker said the phone line’s launch in Manitoba couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. She says provinces that have had the phone service longer reported more than 300,000 COVID-19-related calls between March and October.

Read more: Mental health struggles common during pandemic: Canadian health provider

That’s a 30-per cent increase in calls over the same time last year.

“We know that because of the pandemic we’re having people call 211 for the first time,” Baker says.

“They’re finding themselves in a position that they haven’t been in before, so losing their jobs, concern for their children, their schooling — just really unprecedented times.”

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To access Manitoba 211 services check out their website, or simply dial 211.

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“This is barrier free, it’s 24/7, it’s confidential so it’s about providing the most accessible way for people to get the help that they need,” Baker said.

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“Even if you’re not exactly sure what you need help with, if you’re just feeling anxious and stressed and you’ve got a lot on your plate, please do pick up that phone.

“You will be connected to a real person whose job is to get you connected to the supports that you need in your community.”

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