Family Medicine Matters Blog

The OCFP Blog discusses current topics and invites members to share their perspectives and ideas, and engage in a dialogue.

Accessing Health & Social Services - Some Helpful Phone Numbers for Patients

October 5, 2016

Phone Numbers at a Glance:

  • 211 Ontario
  • ConnexOntario - Drug & Alcohol Helpline: 1-800-565-8603
  • ConnexOntario - Mental Health Helpline: 1-866-531-2600
  • ConnexOntario - Ontario Problem Gambling Helpline: 1-888-230-3505

Finding resources and services is sometimes the most valuable thing we can do for our patients. However, I repeatedly hear from colleagues across Ontario that in this ever-changing environment it continues to be a challenge to find those resources and can be both time consuming and frustrating.


While I work in a practice with a social worker, I continue to seek resources directly for patients. There are some simple telephone based services that are available across the province, and that my patients have found really helpful.


One of the things that I like about these phone-based services is that they are equally available to my patients in rural, northern Marathon, as to patients in downtown Hamilton – or anywhere else in Ontario with a phone line. 


Two particularly helpful resources for doctors and patients are 211 Ontario and ConnexOntario. Both helplines are free, confidential and available 24/7 in more than 100 languages with highly trained staff who directly answer the phone lines. You may have seen the 211 resource on the Poverty tool where it has been featured.


211 is Ontario’s most comprehensive database of services and helplines that provides information and referrals to community, social, government, and non-clinical health services throughout Ontario. Information is clustered by region and callers (whether health-care providers or patients) are connected to local resources. The resources offered range from how to apply for OHIP benefits and access Community Health Centres, to finding emergency and crisis support services, supports for those with disabilities including transportation services, and services for youth and those with mental health and addictions issues.


The website is also helpful and when I tested it for services in my area, I was pleasantly surprised by the accuracy and the ease with which resources could be printed out for patients.


ConnexOntario operates three helplines to support patients with drug and alcohol, gambling and other mental health issues.

  • Drug & Alcohol Helpline: 1-800-565-8603 - Information about OHIP funded residential treatment services (with updated wait times), local detox services (with updated bed availability) and counseling services.
  • Mental Health Helpline: 1-866-531-2600 - Hospital-based resources, distress lines and crisis lines in Ontario. A database of family and caregiver supports is also available.
  • Ontario Problem Gambling Helpline: 1-888-230-3505 - Connects people to local resources for counseling support and provides information about residential treatment centres for gambling.

Another invaluable resource is your local Canadian Mental Health Association office. Each has its own list of valuable phone numbers for local youth and adult mental health services that can be shared with patients.


Having these numbers on hand makes it easier for me to provide something to patients who are struggling to access resources. I use 211 to help to identify services and make referrals on behalf of patients. I also appreciate the self-referral nature of some of these resources and have heard from patients they are helpful. In some cases I have offered the 211 number to patients who were moving to ensure that they would be able to connect to resources in their new community in a timely way.


Have you found other provincial phone numbers that help you to support your patients? Let us (and your colleagues) know.


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