The Coast’s BC211 information line is a year old now, but it appears the phone service is still relatively unknown, as evidenced by the number of calls to the line between March 2014 and February of this year — just 228.
The same information line in the Lower Mainland averages 83,000 calls a year, BC211 manager of resources and publications Ruth Marzetti said during a briefing with local service providers on Monday, March 30.
“So this is a very small sample size. We want to make that clear. There have only been an average of 20 calls per month,” Marzetti noted.
The information line allows Coasters to dial 2-1-1 any time of day with questions about community, government or social services in their area.
“It’s kind of like a one-stop-shop for people looking for information,” said Christabelle Kux-Kardos with the Community Resource Centre (CRC).
It was the CRC in cooperation with the Progress Plan that brought BC211 to the Coast last year after realizing a need for an easily accessed information service.
In addition to being an information resource for those who call, BC211 also keeps stats on who calls and why in an effort to help communities see where they may need to focus their efforts in the future.
Although just 228 people from the Coast used the service during its first year of operation, some trends could be teased from the numbers, Marzetti said.
She showed that 51 per cent of calls over the last year came from Sechelt, 33 per cent came from Gibsons, and the rest were scattered between the rural areas.
Females represented 69 per cent of callers, and men represented 31 per cent of calls.
Reasons for calling varied, but about 20 per cent of calls were health related, 12 per cent were related to housing and homelessness, and 10 per cent were related to income and financial assistance.
The statistics also showed a total of eight per cent of callers were looking for help with substance abuse issues and five per cent were looking to access government services.
In addition to manning the 2-1-1 line, BC211 operators also answer the Alcohol and Drug Information and Referral Service for B.C. line, the Problem Gambling Help Line, the Youth Against Violence line and Victim Link BC.
“So sometimes we may refer local people to one of those province-wide services,” Marzetti said.
She noted a total of 52 per cent of callers from the Coast were referred to local service providers, while 48 per cent were connected with off-Coast help during the last year.
The top 10 agencies callers were referred to, in order, were: Better at Home, Health Link BC, Sunshine Coast Addiction Services, Sunshine Coast Home Care Services, Sunshine Coast Mental Health Services, the Community Resource Centre, the Gibsons Community Health Centre, the Sunshine Coast Cold Weather Shelter, Sunshine Coast Community-Based Victim Services and the Sunshine Coast Unemployment Action Centre.
Marzetti hopes more local people will use the BC211 service in the coming year as it becomes more well known, which will result in better statistics to draw from in the future.
The line is free to call and available in many different languages. It can also be accessed online at www.bc211.ca.