Crisis Intervention Center hopes parishes will help with funding

Aaron Blackledge (Source: WAFB)
Aaron Blackledge (Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - There's a vital service in the Baton Rouge area being used by thousands and the executive director says it's falling through the cracks.

The people inside the Crisis Intervention Center help almost 24,000 people each year.

"In the last year, here in Baton Rouge, we have de-escalated five active shooter events," said Aaron Blackledge, executive director of the Crisis Intervention Center. "Meaning, someone who is either going to inflict harm on someone with a firearm, with explosives, with other means...mass fatality type of events."

The center is saving lives by just being available to anyone in Louisiana through online chat, text or phone call. However, officials said they have crisis of their own - funding.

"We're able to de-escalate 92 percent of the individuals we reach. Intervention works and works in a big way," Blackledge added.

He said the majority that reach out have a chronic mental illness, but "The Phone" - their crisis phone line -  is open to anyone who needs a listening ear.

"In the last two years, we've noticed that what we call homicide and violence ideation, the idea that someone wants to harm or kill someone else, has gone up almost 100 percent," Blackledge explained.

He also said he thinks it's due to reduction in mental health services and lack of money. The Crisis Intervention Center is not funded by the state nor parish - getting most of its money from the United Way and contracts with hospitals.

"Unfortunately, it's something that doesn't always make you feel good to invest in crisis intervention. It's not a feel good topic, unfortunately, but it's something that you can't do without," Blackledge said.

He stated through empowerment and counseling in a nonjudgmental environment, the center is an outlet for someone looking to vent. He's hopeful parishes will soon pass along funding to keep the center thriving.

"By having empathy and building rapport, we can keep building relationships to keep the community safe," Blackledge added.

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