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Crisis lines face volunteer, cash crunch even as COVID-19 drives surge in calls

TERESA WRIGHT, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Apr 27th, 2020

OTTAWA — Despite a surge in demand due to COVID-19, many distress centres across Canada are dangerously close to folding thanks to major declines in both volunteers and revenue.

Stephanie MacKendrick, CEO of Crisis Services Canada, which runs the only national suicide-specific helpline in Canada, says community distress centres across the country have seen 30 to 50 per cent more crisis calls since the pandemic began.

Yet they have also seen fewer volunteers, with some reporting a loss of up to 90 per cent.

While centres have started turning to paid staff to make up the difference, their cash flows have also been hit hard as their main sources of revenue — training and workshops — have dried up overnight due to the pandemic.

MacKendrick calls this the “perfect storm” for these centres, with many now struggling to stay afloat.

MacKendrick says that is why her organization has asked Ottawa to provide $15 million in emergency funding to keep distress centres from having to close their doors.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 27, 2020.

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

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