Areas of Focus

Through the development and implementation of our 2022-2025 Strategic Plan, we have been focused on strengthening, adapting and transforming our people, programs and the broader system in which we operate for a stronger crisis and navigation hub that connects and empowers people and communities.

Learn more about our areas of focus and the progress we made in 2023 through statements from our leadership team.

To learn more about our impact in 2023, visit our Impact page.

PEOPLE

We are a people-first organization and in order to effectively be there for clients in their moments of crisis we need to ensure our employees and volunteers are supported, engaged and resilient in the work we do… without that all else will fail.

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Statement from Director of People and Culture

Christie Schulze

Christie Schulze

Director of People and Culture

People are at the heart of everything we do at Distress Centre. Supporting our people internally is essential to providing support for our service users. This year, we strengthened our people pillar through a number of initiatives across the organization.

We worked on fostering a culture of community, health and wellness with a focus on occupational health and safety this year, formalizing our health and safety procedures and standardizing them across the organization for more consistency between locations.

We continue to build a strong employee value proposition by introducing an agency orientation to enhance the experience of people who are new to Distress Centre or transitioning into employment with us. Through our Supervisor Community of Practice, we continue to raise the bar for the quality of guidance and supervision our employees receive.

We made enhancements towards a thriving volunteer program by launching new volunteer opportunities with our Coordinated Entry team. We also put a lot of work into recreating our mentorship program to drive connection, growth, and appreciation for our volunteers. Volunteerism across the sector continues to struggle as more demands are being placed on people’s time and financial resources. We continue to look for ways to better support our volunteers and provide a great experience through volunteering with Distress Centre.

Programs

We are evolving and strengthening our programs to meet the unique and changing needs of our service users. In doing so we must retain a trauma-informed approach to care while recognizing that customized offerings and collaborative partnerships will be required to improve outcomes for service users.

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Statement from Director of Programs and Performance

Mike Velthuis Kroeze

Mike Velthuis Kroeze

Director of Programs and Performance

In 2023, we made significant strides in enhancing our programs by incorporating trauma-informed principles into our daily work, deepening our understanding our client journeys and needs, adding crucial programs such as 988, and piloting new ways of accessing our services such as closed loop referrals between community professionals and 211.  These actions underscore our dedication to ensuring our programs remain a robust and response element of our strategic plan, capable of adapting to the evolving needs of those we serve.

In order to develop a person centered, trauma informed approach to care, we set a requirement for staff to complete Brain Story Certification, a course designed for those seeking a deeper understanding of brain development and its consequences for lifelong health.  We also placed a DC representative on the Trauma Informed Care Collective Committee. We developed training for staff on the role of language in trauma informed care.

In our efforts to customize programs and services to improve client and service user experience and outcomes, we made significant progress in the development of the Community Information Exchange model. This work has included client journey mapping to understand the needs and barriers experienced by people seeking support. We also launched 988 services in late 2023. Distress Centre is a 988 Partner for the three-digit national suicide prevention service.

In our efforts to encourage innovative and disruptive mindsets across programs and seek more collaborative service delivery models, we piloted 211 closed loop referral projects with the Foothills Primary Care Network and Integrated School Supports Program funded schools to create simplified pathways for people to connect with 211 and enhance collaboration and knowledge sharing between 211 and community professionals.

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Statement from Candice Giammarino, Director of Programs at SORCe:

Candice Giammarino

Candice Giammarino

Director of Programs at SORCe

In 2023, the Coordinated Entry program experienced both successes and challenges, showcasing our adaptability and commitment to our mission. Guided by our Strategic Plan, we maintained focus on our objectives throughout the year. We expanded volunteer opportunities and onboarded two new members, laying the groundwork for further growth, including plans for tax clinic volunteer expansion in 2024. Additionally, we enhanced our trauma-informed approach through specialized trainings and immersive learning experiences, such as an Elder-led tour at Blackfoot Crossing and a two-day training: “Other & Self-Care: Trauma Informed Practices.”

In response to emerging needs, we piloted the role of a Coordinated Entry Trainer, empowering Housing Strategists citywide with consistent, person-centered support, enhancing the experience for people requiring a housing assessment and housing plan. Furthermore, our participation in Coordinated Community Extreme Weather Response allowed us to innovate our service delivery for ID Replacement, making it mobile and extending support to partner agencies’ housing programs.

Despite successes, we encountered challenges alongside our community partners, notably the escalating housing crisis and a surge in newcomers and refugees seeking assistance. As demand for our services spiked by nearly 50% in early 2024 compared to the same time in 2023, we saw this as an opportunity to reassess our processes, pilot new roles, and forge stronger community partnerships.

Looking ahead to 2024, we embrace the chance to explore innovative solutions and foster new collaborations in response to evolving community needs.

Community Information Exchange

The Community Information Exchange (CIE) Model is a community-led ecosystem that facilitates coordinated community care planning using shared language, resource databases, and integrated technology platforms. The CIE model centers the community and enables proactive, holistic, person-centered care.

The potential impact of the CIE model in Calgary is significant. By bringing together a range of service providers and stakeholders, the CIE model can help to bridge the gaps that currently exist in the social service sector. This can lead to more effective and efficient care for individuals with complex needs, as well as greater equity in the provision of social services.

The CIE model can also help to address some of the underlying issues that contribute to social inequities, such as lack of access to affordable housing, transportation, and other basic needs. By focusing on the social determinants of health and wellbeing, the CIE model can help to address the root causes of social issues and support individuals in achieving long-term health and wellbeing.

The CIE Is a catalyst for transformation from the status quo.

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Statement from Richard Mugford, Senior Manager of Community Information Exchange:

Richard Mugford

Richard Mugford

Senior Manager of Community Information Exchange

The CIE has truly been a collaborative effort from a number of community partners including:

Kindred Connections Society, The Alex, CUPS, Aventa, Inn From the Cold, The Drop In Centre, The City of Calgary, Calgary Homeless Foundation, United Way Calgary and Area, Calgary Police Service and Alberta Health Services. Through this wide range of committed partners coming together we have been able to lay the ground work in building and implementing this model in Calgary.

In 2023, we focused on the development of the CIE model through the engagement of network partners, exploration and development of shared language and social determinants of health screening tools, finding the right technology platform, and tackling information sharing. We are thankful to Converge Mental Health for the development of an Information Sharing Framework that we have been able to adapt and start to operationalize into our planning.

2024 is the year where the CIE becomes something tangible and we are excited to dive into this work.

System Leadership

It is our privilege to be at the forefront of crisis support and system navigation support but with this we feel an obligation to take on a greater System Leadership role and share the insights we have to contribute to research and actively advocate for practice and system change.

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Statement from Robyn Romano, Chief Executive Officer:

Robyn Romano

Robyn Romano

Chief Executive Officer

Over the past year, our community training program has grown significantly, further empowering individuals throughout our community. We understand the immense value that our volunteers gain from Distress Centre training, so we've made it more accessible, extending its benefits beyond just answering crisis calls. This expansion isn't just about training—it's also about serving our community. By offering training to more people, we're not only helping individuals build valuable skills but also generating funds that we are able to reinvest back into programs. 

Additionally, we're building community insight and capacity by sharing monthly crisis and 211 contact data on our website, giving everyone real-time insights into community needs and trends. As part of our 2023 Annual Report, we launched a bold campaign to end the stigma around discussing suicide, creating a culture of openness and support within our community. 

Looking ahead to 2024, we're excited to kick off our partnership with the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Social Work in establishing a crisis and navigation knowledge hub, furthering our commitment in building and sharing our learnings to enhance our service to community. Furthermore, we're enhancing our public dashboards with new visualizations, including geo-mapping of 211 data, to better illustrate the stories of those accessing Distress Centre services. These initiatives underscore our ongoing dedication to supporting mental health and well-being in our communities.