Winnipeg mental health crisis lines to get upgrade

A Winnipeg-based community health organization is getting a $50,000 cash infusion to upgrade its aging mental health crisis line system.

The Victoria Hospital Foundation announced the donation to the Klinic Community Health Program through a grant earmarked to help organizations innovate technologically.

Klinic executive director Ayn Wilcox says heading into the pandemic, the organization’s computers were already upwards of eight years old, and their phone line system was not meeting their evolving needs.

“The investment that we received from the Vic Foundation has really allowed us to shift to a new platform and services on our crisis lines that provide better quality, better up time for clients who are calling now, but also sets us up for the future to allow us to implement new things like text and chat going forward,” she said.

The investment allows Klinic to upgrade nine crisis, support and distress phone lines with a new phone system to create faster, clearer phone connections to better support clients. It will also upgrade their computers.

“We now have the ability to designate priority lines to ensure that certain lines are answered right away when they need to be answered, and then ways to distribute the calls to crisis staff and volunteers based on their permissions or rules that we’ve set, ” explained Bill Burrows, manager of Klinic’s crisis and counseling program.

According to the organization, 41,500 Manitobans called the crisis lines in 2021 and 2022 and over 78,000 had telephone or virtual counseling and health-care appointments.

Crisis Lines Clinics are accessible 24/7 to all Manitobans in need of support. They include lines devoted to suicide prevention, sexual assault crisis help and a trafficking hotline.

Victoria Hospital Foundation’s executive director Nicole Chammartin says the pandemic provided a window into the importance of technology in supporting accessible health and mental health care.

In 2022, the foundation awarded over $250,000 in grants to seven local non-profits to improve their digital infrastructure through upgraded technology.

“When we support people to be safe and healthy in our communities, we are not only improving the quality of life, we are improving our entire healthcare system,” Chammartin said in a news release.

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