Invitation to register: Supporting distress centres during the COVID-19 pandemic
In the 2020 Fall Economic Statement, the Government of Canada announced an investment of $50 million to bolster the capacity of distress centres in addressing pressures and service demands related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is administering this funding opportunity through a two-step process. The first step is for organizations to register their interest in applying to receive funds.
Note, this registration process will also allow PHAC to create an inventory of distress centres which may be used for future communications and networking purposes.
Eligible registrants will then be invited by PHAC to the second step, which is to apply for funding at a pre-determined level, based on the size of the organization, volume of interactions (phone, text and/or chat), anticipated level of need and eligible activities.
An initial round of funding will be issued in Spring 2021, to be used over a period of 18 months. Should funds remain available, a second funding opportunity will be launched later in 2021. This second opportunity may support other activities, additional needs, or new funding applicants.
- Section 1 - Overview
- Section 2 - Objective and Eligible Activities
- Section 3 - Who Can Apply
- Section 4 - Funding Amount and Duration
- Section 5 - Application Process
- Section 6 - Contact Us
Section 1 - Overview
The health, social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are causing elevated levels of stress, anxiety, depression and loneliness for many people. There is an urgent need to enhance crisis services and supports to address needs arising during the COVID-19 pandemic.
These impacts are resulting in a significant increase in call volume to local, regional and national distress centres across Canada. At the same time, many distress centres are seeing a decline in donations and volunteer capacity related to COVID-19 challenges.
Section 2 - Objective and Eligible Activities
Through this funding opportunity, PHAC aims to support the capacity and viability of eligible distress centres as they respond to pressures and increased service demands resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
For the purpose of this funding opportunity, a distress centre is an organization that provides a dedicated service focussed on the provision of immediate crisis services by phone, text and/or chat to the general public or specific priority populations, with a focus on mental health. (Please see Section 3 for more information on eligible organizations).
Funds can be used to support:
- Increases to staff time/overtime (e.g., extra shifts, extended hours)
- Hiring of new staff (e.g., additional responders, supervisors)
- Responder recruitment/training and onboarding
- Additional costs related to managing increased pressures associated with the delivery of ongoing services, or to meet additional demand
- Changes to service delivery required due to the pandemic (e.g., responding to increased demand, shifting to virtual operations) and new distress or crisis resources to respond to COVID-related issues
- Purchases for infection control/COVID prevention at distress centre sites (e.g., cleaning supplies, protective equipment, plexiglass, etc.), including consultation costs for expert emergency preparedness advice
- Furniture or equipment to support adjustments in delivery of ongoing services, meeting additional demand and costs for supporting new or adapted communication and outreach (e.g., technology/software/virtual platforms, equipment for remote working arrangements, dedicated headsets, etc.)
- New or adapted resources for responders (e.g., online tools, virtual training, including on self-care, vicarious trauma, crisis counselling, etc.)
- Rental expense for additional space (e.g. in accordance with public health recommendations, including to support physical distancing)
- Knowledge exchange - meetings, communities of practice to share lessons learned
- Administrative/operating costs (e.g. rent, hydro, heating)
The following expenses are not eligible for funding under this investment:
- Capital costs such as land, buildings and vehicles
- Expanding the scope of programs or services (not related to surge in demand associated with COVID), or creating new programs and services
- Project activities that are not primarily phone/text/chat crisis support (e.g., shelter services, mobile crisis response, mental health counselling services, hospital-based services)
Section 3 - Who can apply/Eligibility
To be eligible for funding, an organization must meet the following criteria:
Have as its principal mandate, or as a dedicated service line, the provision of crisis services by phone, text and/or chat to the general public or specific priority populations with a focus on mental health
Note: "Crisis services" refers to real-time interaction via voice/phone, text, or online chat with a trained crisis responder with the intention of providing immediate support to people experiencing an acute crisis or mental health issue (i.e. issue of recent origin, causing a high level of distress, and requires immediate action). Organizations must offer general crisis services, not limited to a specific issue such as addictions and gambling.
Note: Where the crisis service is not the organization's principal mandate, to be considered a dedicated service line, the crisis service must be marketed distinctly from the overall organization.
- Be a not-for-profit, volunteer or charitable organization
- Have been in operation for a minimum of two years, prior to this funding opportunity
- Be experiencing pressures or increased service demands related to COVID-19 (for example, challenges and changes related to staff attrition, retention and recruitment of responders; increased demand for service such as higher volumes of phone, text, chat interactions; and changes to service delivery models or infrastructure due to the COVID-19 context)
- Have the equivalent of at least 5 full-time staff (employees and/or volunteers) working as responders, and have a supervisor / team of supervisors with oversight of the responders
- Provide crisis services at no charge
The following types of organizations are not eligible for funding through this investment:
- organizations whose crisis service does not consist primarily of phone/text/chat crisis support
- organizations previously providing in-person services that have only begun to offer phone/text/chat formats since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic
- organizations whose primary role is the provision of information and referrals, telehealth services, advisory services, victim services
- organizations that operate as a paid service
Section 4 - Funding amount and duration
Initial funds will be issued through grants in spring 2021, to be used over a period of up to 18 months. The grant level will be established through a formula, determined based on the number and size of eligible registrants. Three tiers of grants will be established, for small, medium and large distress centres, with the highest tier not exceeding $250,000.
Section 5 - Application process
The process to apply for funds involves two steps. The first step is for interested and eligible distress centres to register their interest in receiving funds by completing and submitting a Registration Form. PHAC will use this information to help determine eligibility and inform funding decisions. This will also allow PHAC to create an inventory of distress centres that can be used for future communications.
Registration must be submitted by 11:59 pm EST on February 8, 2021 using PHAC's Supporting Distress Centres During COVID-19 Registration Form. To obtain a copy of the Registration Form, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line "Registration Form".
Following review of registration forms, PHAC will initiate step two and invite eligible registrants to apply for grants to support eligible expenses. At this stage, organizations will complete an "Application for Funding Template" provided by PHAC. Following review of applications, it is anticipated that PHAC will issue grants to approved applicants in Spring 2021.
In the province of Quebec, some eligible organizations may have to comply with the applicable provisions of the Act Respecting the Ministère du Conseil exécutif (Act M-30) before an agreement for a selected project can be signed with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). For more information about Act M-30 and to determine if your organization must comply with its applicable provisions, please consult the web site of the Secrétariat du Québec aux relations canadiennes (SQRC):
Should your project be selected for funding, PHAC will send the Grant Letter and related documents to the Quebec government department responsible for the application of Act M-30.
Section 6: Contact us
To obtain additional information about this funding opportunity, please contact: email@example.com
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