Cassandra von Gerds, program manager for Butler County Crisis Consultation & Intervention, is in charge of the mobile crisis team. She said the single point of contact will be a great benefit for people in crisis.
“When someone is in need and at their most vulnerable moment, they don’t have to try and think what number do I use,” she said. “They just have one and that’s the great thing about our new toll free number… Another reason we wanted the new number, was to make sure there is no gap in time to meet their need at their most vulnerable time. As soon as they pick up the phone they are going to talk to somebody.”
Joan Burger, director of business development for the hotline, said they are the “gatekeepers” for the crisis calls. They take in pertinent information, assess the level of crisis and either forward the person on to the crisis consultation & invention team or arrange whatever non-emergent help the person needs.
“Our first job is to diffuse the crisis as much as possible,” Burger said. “All we have is a phone. A lot of times a caller will call in and they will be hysterical, whether they are yelling, or screaming or crying, it’s a lot to process. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. It’s a true listening skill and a fact-finding moment.”
If the hotline consultants deem the situation is urgent, they patch the caller through to the mobile intervention team. Last year, 1,051 people were referred to the mobile team and 684 callers required face-to-face attention. The mobile team has six full-time people, an intern and four after-hours counselors to respond to callers. The counselors will assess whether a phone consultation will handle the crisis or if face-to-face contact is needed. The counselors are always accompanied by a sheriff’s deputy when they go to meet someone.
The hotline is not only for the individuals in crisis, but also family and friends who are concerned about a loved one. Both of the crisis responding teams say their services are not just for people who are suicidal or homicidal, they can refer people with financial struggles, legal troubles and other problems that seem insurmountable to the proper agency for help.
The saddest situations, according to von Gerds, are when loved ones find out too late that help was available.
“The ones that we struggle with the most are when we hear from family members who are struggling with grief over the loss of somebody, and they didn’t realize the services existed,” she said. “Those are probably the hardest for our team to deal with, because we know there are resources there and we know there is help. Our goal now is to get that information out to the community to make sure people know they aren’t alone.”
Scott Rasmus, executive director of the county mental health board, said prior to now it was deemed too costly to pay for one toll free number, but they have worked things out to be able to deliver the central contact number. The old numbers will still be operational for several months during the transition.