Since we opened our doors in 1970 we have been offering 24 hour crisis to Calgary and southern Alberta.
While the number of calls, email, chat and texts have increased, and our look and our name have changed, Distress Centre’s core values of 24 hour, non-judgmental, free, compassionate and accessible support remain unchanged.
On April 14th, Distress Centre opened its doors as the Drug Information Centre with the goal of providing unbiased drug information and education, crisis intervention and research. In the first year of operation, The volunteers responded to 3,837 calls and 1,724 drop-ins.
The Centre began to shift from purely drug related calls to a dual emphasis on crisis and addictions.
The Drug Information Centre changed its name to The Centre and was more commonly referred to as the Distress Centre/Drug Centre. It launched a 24 hour general crisis line and separate drug crisis line.
Distress Centre/Drug Centre began receiving funding from United Way.
Dr. Stew Clark had been involved with Distress Centre since its inception. He was appointed Co-ordinator in 1976, a title that was changed to Executive Director in 1979. He departed the role the same year and Jeanette McEachern was appointed Executive Director. She served in the role for 18 years.
Teen Line was established to provide the youth of Calgary with a place to call that was specifically focused on their needs. This service, answered by teen volunteers, was the first of its kind in Canada.
Distress Centre/Drug Centre becomes the legal name. Roughly 28,000 calls were being responded to at this time.
Distress Centre sought to secure additional sources of funding throughout the ‘90s to meet the growing demand for crisis support. Specialized lines were added in the ‘90s, including the Youth Drug Line (1990), the Gambling Line (1994), Men’s Line (1998) and SeniorConnect (1994).
Distress Centre continued to experience tremendous growth as we introduced several new programs and partnerships. These included partnerships with mobile teams such as the Mobile Response Team.
This paved the way for our current structure of effective partnerships and further established Distress Centre as an innovative leader in the community.
Distress Centre partnered with the City of Calgary and United Way, launched 211 Calgary. This further established Distress Centre as the hub of crisis support and the “go-to” place for community referrals in Calgary.
Distress Centre coordinated a Basic Needs Pilot Project, which had a focus on preventing homelessness and streamlining access to emergency financial assistance. The new Basic Needs Fund (BNF) eventually replaced the Instrumental Needs Fund.
Carol Oliver was appointed Executive Director in 2008 upon the retirement of Barb Litchinsky. Unfortunately, Carol had to take a leave of absence in 2011 after being diagnosed with cancer. She passed away in 2012.
Due to the recession, Distress Centre responded to the increase in complexity of issues as well as severity of risk. To respond to the increased need, Distress Centre began to leverage social data from 211 to help with mapping issues in communities throughout the city, develop programs in areas of need, and targeting assistance to the hardest hit populations. 1-800-SUICIDE was launched in Southern Alberta.
Distress Centre’s 40th Anniversary. The refreshed brand made its debut, along with the introduction of one memorable crisis line number, 403.266.HELP (4357). Distress Centre Calgary became the agency’s legal name.
Distress Centre announced the launch of their refurbished youth peer support program, ConnecTeen, which now, in addition to 24 hour phone support at 403.264.TEEN (8336), offered online crisis chat and email support online at calgaryconnecteen.com.
Distress Centre launched online services by expanding their current service offerings to include daily online chat and email support.
Joan Roy was appointed Executive Director. Following the June floods, Distress Centre responded to a 40% increase in help-seeking calls to 211. In July, the 211 service is expanded to High River to help those impacted by the floods.
In November, ConnecTeen announced the launch of their new youth peer support texting program, the first program of it’s kind in North America.
Distress Centre was selected by the Calgary Homeless Foundation to provide coordinated intake into Calgary’s homeless-serving system. Distress Centre’s team operates out of the Safe Communities Opportunity and Resource Centre (SORCe), and assists people at risk of or experiencing homelessness by providing a single point of access to housing and support services.
211 played a critical role in supporting the Fort McMurray/Wood Buffalo evacuees when wildfires ravaged the area in May. Online chat was launched province-wide to give evacuees another way to contact 211. 211 collateral and staff were also available at evacuation centres.
Jerilyn Dressler was appointed Executive Director after Joan Roy retired.
Distress Centre celebrated its 50th year of operations. DC moved to a new office after 20 years in the previous space, only to bring operations remote a month later, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Counselling services were delivered by phone and video and the programs at SORCe were delivered by phone temporarily. In-person services resumed at SORCe in November.
211 experienced a massive increase in demand for services due to the pandemic. All 211 modes of contact (phone, chat and text) became available 24/7.
Robyn Romano was appointed Executive Director. Adult crisis text was introduced in September. Distress Centre launched 24/7 crisis text and chat, the result of the hard work of staff and volunteers at Distress Centre over many years. Phone support remained available 24/7, as it had been since 1975.