BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Crisis Intervention Center of Louisiana (CICLA), long known for its suicide prevention hotline named THE PHONE, has consolidated its efforts with The Bridge Center for Hope.
"This is a big win for Baton Rouge," said CIC Board of Directors President Gary Littlefield. "For many years now, nonprofits in our area have been struggling to maintain their operations with the limited dollars available for such efforts. By joining together with The Bridge Center, people in our area who need comprehensive support will be able to find more resources than ever before, under one umbrella, with a vision and commitment to expand this effort so that no one falls through the cracks in our community," Littlefield said.
All services previously provided by CICLA, including all crisis hotlines such as THE PHONE, have been transferred under the umbrella of The Bridge Center for Hope. Individuals in need of services can use the same number:
"When individuals call THE PHONE they will be able to talk to a highly-trained individual 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This merger should be seamless for those being served," said Kathy Kliebert, Bridge Center Chairwoman.
There's a 24/7 contact center with call line, text and chat functionality. 75 percent of people operating the contact center have a counseling or social work masters-level degree. They will provide callers with a referral, if deemed appropriate, and a follow-up call.
"Voters in Baton Rouge narrowly defeated our tax proposal a few years ago to fully fund the concept of the Bridge Center for Hope," said Kliebert. "But since that time, we have been meeting with service providers to discover where we could improve the model, increase efficiencies and consolidate competing efforts. When we engaged with the Crisis Intervention Center we quickly concluded that a crisis contact center such as theirs, with a strong history and reputation for quality, is the critical entry point for those individuals in a crisis. By merging our efforts and our funding, we believe we can create the foundational components necessary for The Bridge Center for Hope to grow and develop into a valued community resource."
THE BRIDGE CENTER FOR HOPE
The Bridge Center for Hope was created by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation in 2015 with a focus on diverting individuals with mental health and substance abuse issues from emergency departments and the East Baton Rouge Parish jail to the appropriate treatment.
This consolidation of efforts is a big step in the creation of a collaborative environment where nonprofits with similar missions and limited dollars work together to effectively serve the community.
The Bridge Center has received a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in coordination with the Urban Institute (Safety + Justice Challenge). Those dollars were used to design and launch a pre-trial release program operating out of the East Baton Rouge Parish Jail.
The program aims to release 1-2 inmates per week with mental health or substance abuse challenges and divert them into a less restrictive and appropriate environment to receive treatment. Mayor Sharon Weston Broome and the Metro Council stand behind this program and have agreed to fully fund its operations for 2018.
THE PHONE was established in 1970 after several LSU students, including the student government president, died by suicide. Those deaths led to a movement within the university faculty and student body to create a student help line.
Within a few years it grew into a community wide resource utilizing paraprofessional volunteers who received over 60 hours of crisis intervention training from a dedicated staff. Over the nearly five decades the CIC has benefited from the many volunteers, staff and student interns who expanded services to include face-to-face survivor services for those impacted by suicide.
THE PHONE offers 24-hour crisis counseling and emotional support for the Greater Baton Rouge Area. According to the website, THE PHONE is a safe space to talk about all sorts of feelings and problems, including, but not limited to, depression, anxiety, loneliness, interpersonal problems, suicidal ideation, and financial issues. Callers to THE PHONE are connected to volunteer paraprofessional counselors who are trained in crisis intervention and suicide prevention. These counselors are available to listen and talk with you whenever you need help the most.