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The Update Issue...
October 2007  

In This Issue

  • Networking Day Update 
  • EDUCATION - a DCO initiative
  • Call Out Service Models
  • Volunteer Management
  • Future Visions and Best Practices




'Go Forward' Working Groups and Committees 

Accreditation Working


review best practices and accreditation models

Education Committee

expanded mandate and deliverables

Futures/Visioning Working Group

facilitate discussion about

the future of the distress centre and line movement in Ontario

Volunteer Management Committee

support changing and challenging volunteer issues



Visit the new website and remember to send notification of the events that may be upcoming in your centre or area to DCO

Networking Day was a great success

80% of our Member Centres were able to send staff, leadership volunteers and Board members to the Networking Day held on October 25th, 2007 at the Delta Markham Hotel and Conference Centre in Markham.

The day started with discussions about the educational initiatives of DCO and its member centres, followed by discussing alternate service delivery methods including an on-line demonstration of the BC Youth Line, a presentation by the staff of the Vancouver Crisis Line and a review of the Samaritans text service.  The day ended with discussions and presentations by member centres on three specific topics.

Networking Day - Outcomes

  1. Setting directions for the Education Committee
  2. Identification & formation of DCO “Go Forward” committees & working groups
  3. Decisions on how to integrate increasing numbers of volunteers in DCO activities
  4. Identifying what else DCO can do for member centres

EDUCATION - a DCO initiative 

The initiative to deliver ASIST Training regionally is successful and member centres want it to continue in 2008. 

The format needs to change making it more affordable for a greater number of volunteers.  Suggestions: including more Distress Line specific examples into the training; training specific member centre trainers to provide the training in a regional format and to share the resources among the member centres.

The Educational Forums are well attended, the topics well received and discussions focused on how to make them more readily available to a greater number of volunteers. 

Since the costs of bringing many volunteers to a Forum can be prohibitive, some suggestions included: organizing three regional forums, keeping the forum to a one-day event, finding partners to subsidize volunteer travel, partnering with other organizations and their educational offerings, avoiding scheduling forums during peak conference times, scheduling Forums for the weekend; having one Educational Forum per year, filming proceedings and sharing with all member centres. The membership wants the DCO AGM to be connected to a forum to increase attendance.  The education committee will incorporate the suggestions into next year's offering.

Possible Web and Electronic Educational Aids were discussed.  The group explored the concept of discussion/chat forums and recommended it unanimously for staff and leadership positions across all centres and possibly across Canada.  Issues of technology and moderating the chats would be reviewed by the education committee.

Using You Tube technology to present mini tutorialson topics from the Education Forums was unanimously supported by all in attendance.  This would be a resource available through the DCO website to all member centres, staff and volunteers.  The Educational Committee will direct these efforts.

The outcomes from the Education Discovery Sessions held with TAPE were reviewed.  The Educations Committee shared that there exists a need to

  • move towards a more effective training approach
  • offer mini courses to facilitate face to face training
  • have offerings that will increase the time for practical hands on training sessions (role playing)
  • offer a clear and concise volunteer screening and evaluation process
  • develop training that will accommodate various learning styles
  • implement refresher courses for existing volunteers
  • use education to increase retention rates of existing volunteers

These points prompted vigorous discussions that supported the continued work of the committee with special focus on:

  • developing flexible tools to enhance training, not a rigid one that can only be used under specific conditions
  • using e-learning modules to facilitate in-service training and skill reinforcement
  • sharing existing resources and making them more widely available to all member centres
  • sharing taped sessions and DVD's across regions and centres
  • distributing reviews of legislation and guidelines that impact distress line work 

The Education Committee will take these suggestions and chart the continued course of the Education Initiatives of DCO.

Call-Out Service Models

The group reviewed the variety of existing and emerging call-out service models.  The services support seniors and other vulnerable populations.  A variety of pros and cons were reviewed. 

The programs are very adaptable with the ability to tailor the programs to the service needs of different regions of the province and different target populations.   

Prevention, in the fullest sense, is the biggest pro. Centres know their callers better than others even family, and know how they are coping and can link them to professionals and other resources so they don’t go into crisis.  

These services are empowering for callers since they do not have to call repeatedly, rather callers get a sense that volunteers want to talk to them.  The improved client capacity and support ability makes day to day coping easier and access to resources and referrals easier.  This is an excellent way to evaluate a client’s well being. 

This service model is empowering for volunteers as they sense they are really making a difference in someone’s life; and helps with higher retention of volunteers due to higher volunteer satisfaction and more frequent client thank yous. 

Call out models improve centre capacity by managing repeat callers, freeing up DC lines leading to increased call-in volumes, improved client capacity,  increasing accessibility to all populations. 

Many more aspects of the programs were discussed and notes are available from the DCO offices.  Distress Centres Ontario is supportive of these program initiatives by member centres and is encouraged to work with partners and establish health and seniors and mental health service providers to grow the programs across the province.

Volunteer Management

Among the may issues that impact volunteer management, three were discussed in detail:  recruitment, retention and burnout.

Various Recruitment strategies were discussed.  Volunteer fairs, local university and colleges as sources of volunteers, first year orientations and curriculum sessions helping with education and recruitment.  Paid ads and PSA's are used as well as bus and road side ads. Websites are an increasingly popular source for potential volunteers. Corporate volunteerism and reviewing commitment requirements were suggested.  A province wide initiative to tackle these issues was considered.

Retention continues as a serious issue in the ever changing volunteer environment.  Strategies for holding volunteers accountable for shift coverage were discussed, the duration of the volunteer commitment were reviewed (by months, by hours, by period) to provide some flexibility; the issue of overnight honorariums and managing volunteer absenteeism were acknowledged.  The value of a cross-centre approach was considered in this context.

The work that our volunteers do is very important, but occasionally regular callers can Burnout our volunteers.  Strategies for reviewing burnout can be discussed in a larger provincial context.

Future Visions and Best Practices

The group feels its important to look at the future and consider how we will be doing as a sector in 3 or 5 or 10 years.  There are many issues that Distress Centres/Lines need to be looking at.

  • Issues of a centre's capacity to influence change or maintain relevance in the community
  • Increasing cooperation and partnership between centres to discuss issues collectively
  • Regarding technology - service driving technology vs technology driving service
  • Significant resources are needed to advertise the services
  • Distress Centres provide a human touch - callers speak to a real person
  • Addressing future needs as a more integrated system but still maintaining a local flair
  • Aiming for a provincial distress/crisis line that is integrated through local centres (ie. 1-800 number) that uses the entire capacity of all centres
  • What would this approach require?
  • Across the board standards, moving towards recognized accreditation for centres
  • Reviewing the 211 integration model and lessons we can learn from it
  • Need to reach out to aboriginals, the elderly, other vulnerable populations in a more relevant manner
  • Will the model of delivering services at the centres change? ie. consider paid staff, honorariums, changes in volunteer management models
  • Need to evaluate the impact of distress centres on the community
  • Recognizing a changing role for DCO in the future

Proposal: for the next networking session, each centre should make suggestions for increased cooperation

Next Month

Youth in  BC - the Text Messaging Service offered by the Vancouver Crisis Centre

Synopsis of the presentations from




Upcoming Events

Visioning Day for all member centres – anticipated for January 2008

Networking Days for staff, leader volunteers and Board members at least twice a year


Thank you everyone for your generous input and thoughtful suggestions. 
It made this a very productive day.

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DCO Distress Centres Ontario
700 Lawrence Ave W.
Suite 475 A
Toronto, Ontario M6A 3B4


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