Crisis Intervention Center launches holiday donation drive as calls increase

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - When you're overwhelmed by the rebuilding, drowning in paperwork, and feel the panic rising up, help is a phone call away.

"Maybe it's 2 a.m. and they need someone to talk to. They're able to call our crisis line and speak to someone to get the emotional support that they need," said Dr. Margo Abadie, clinical director for the Crisis Intervention Center.

It's been four months since the flood waters swept through the metro area. While repairs to buildings may be well underway, Margo said now is the time when many people discover emotional and mental trauma that needs to be repaired as well. According to studies, emotional trauma from a disaster or tragedy emerges weeks to months after the event in many cases. Abadie says they are seeing an uptick in demands for their services, and the center expects that to only grow as the holidays near.

"The trauma hits them and they can't believe what happened. As things start to sink in and they start to understand how it's affected their lives and the people they love, then they start reaching out," said Abadie.

The center, not to be confused with the Baton Rouge Bridge Center for Hope, offers many different services for crisis intervention and post-crisis counseling, both for individuals and groups. However, it is probably best known for its 24-hour crisis hotline, The Phone, which has been a consistent source of help for nearly 50 years.

Around 24,000 people from the metro area call The Phone each year. The number of calls go up after a disaster. The Phone is a free service for the public, however the center has struggled to maintain funding for the service in recent years. The extra demand due to disaster-based trauma is only straining their resources further, according to executive director Aaron Blackledge.

In the past, the center has been able to find extra funding to help with disaster-based trauma through gr ants or donations. However, Blackedge said the lack of national attention for the August flooding has made finding that extra funding more difficult.

"It's kind of the forgotten disaster. Very few people are talking about it nationally," said Blackledge.

Blackledge said they've applied for about a dozen local and national gr ants to help pay for their disaster-based trauma services. Around half were rejected. Some are still pending, and some require a show of local support. In other words, potential benefactors want to see a local investment into the center before handing over any gr ants. Blackledge says, currently, the center receives no direct local, state, or federal money.

"There hasn't been a time, certainly since Hurricane Katrina, that I can think of that we've received some level of support directly related to again helping with disaster-based trauma and we've not seen that to date," said Blackledge.

However, there is a way you can help make sure calls for help continue to be answered around the clock. The center has a holiday donation campaign going on now. Every donation made will be matched up to $30,000 by the Louisiana-based Huey and Angelina Wilson Foundation. Blackledge says that money will go directly to providing more disaster-based crisis intervention services.

"What we know is the demand for these services continues to increase as we get further and further away from this event," said Blackledge.

To donate, click here. If you need crisis counseling, you can call 225-924-3900, 225-924-LSU1, or 800-437-0303 and also talk online at

Copyright 2016 WAFB. All rights reserved.