The Eskasoni Mi'kmaq Crisis and Referral Centre says it's facing a looming financial crisis and needs the provincial or federal government to help pay for the service.

It costs about $300,000 a year to run the centre but the organization only collects about $65,000 in agency funds and donations. The rest of the money needed to pay the centre's bills comes from the Eskasoni band council.

Daphne Hutt-MacLeod, the director of Eskasoni Mental Health Services, said the band has been paying for the centre for years.

Now she hopes the centre can secure permanent funding from the provincial or federal government.

"That's where my worry is maintaining staff, having the finances to be able to support those staff, extend services out to other communities and worry about the clients," said Hutt-MacLeod.

The Eskasoni Mi'kmaq Crisis and Referral Centre was set up almost four years ago after nearly a dozen suicides and drug overdoses in the span of a few months. The centre has been taking emergency calls since.

Last year, six staff members answered calls or chatted online with more than 1,200 people from Mi'kmaq communities across the region.

Dion Denny, who works at the centre, said the emergency line is an essential service.

"People have more confidence in the crisis line now. It has grown to be a the lifeline of Eskasoni. Sometimes they don't even call 911 — they call us," said Denny.

Levi Denny, who works for the Eskasoni band, said he also wants to see the centre survive.

"Going back from lessons in history, you never want to take a step backwards. I think we took a step backwards with residential schools, not being able tot talk about what was going on then, now it's a lot more open," he said.

"It's just a battle that we can't afford to lose."

The federal and provincial governments recently evaluated the centre and its work.

Hutt-MacLeod hopes that will result in a commitment of money for the long term.

In the fall, the Eskasoni Mi'kmaq Crisis and Referral Centre won an award from the Cape Breton District Health Authority for outstanding service to people with mental illnesses.