The London and District Distress Centre will be closing its doors by the end of 2016 due to cuts in funding.
For nearly the past 50 years, the centre has been providing assistance for people dealing with a wide range of issues including depression, addictions, abuse and suicide. The 24-hour distress line offers short term empathetic listening and confidential support by highly trained volunteers.
According to officials, funding from two major sources has been cut. The centre had been receiving between $120,000 and $160,000 from both the United Way and the Canadian Mental Health Association.
CEO of CMHA Middlesex Steven Harrison says it was a decision made unanimously by the organization’s chapters in southwestern Ontario, and it was done to coordinate services.
“I think it really came down to quality of service, sustainability in the long haul, and then more than not, what it really comes down to is coordination of services so the ability to connect with other service providers in the community and the ability for services to be provided in a more robust fashion,” said Harrison.
Todd Devlin is a third party funder of the London centre through London’s Walk and Talk for Mental Health. He says he’s worried about the impact the closure could have on the community.
“They receive thousands of calls, said Devlin. “I know this year, up until this point, they’re already ahead of last year. The demand is increasing, so if anything, they should be receiving more funding.”
The centre receives approximately 70 calls per day, or over 25,000 per year.
“It’s a compassionate ear, a listener,” said Devlin. “If someone just needs an ear and just needs to chat with someone, not technically counselling, but certainly, it helps people in terms of a medical crisis that they might be going through.”
Officials say the money previously received from the Canadian Mental Health association will be re-directed to a similar call-based service.
“Connex offers services like this in Ontario just not currently in the southwest, so it’s not a service that’s available in the southwest because this has been handled by LDDC in the past. So they’re going to be expanding their reach into this area and providing those services. They will be able to be up and running long before the end of the calendar year, if required.”
The London and District Distress Centre was established in 1968 after concern about the disturbing number of suicides within the London area and the lack of immediate resources available. The community-based agency provides individuals in need with short-term empathetic listening and confidential telephone support, operated 24 hours a day by highly trained and caring volunteers.
Volunteers are experienced to provide support for called who are experiencing a range of problems, from depression, marital or family problems, abuse, and loneliness to addictions and suicidal thoughts.
The call centre will officially disconnect in December.
With files from Trudy Shaw.