Contact Community Services Prepares for Number Change Amidst Concerns Contact Community Services Prepares for Number Change Amidst Concerns

Kennedy Houston: Contact Community Services of Syracuse maintains the crisis line for a portion of New York State. There’s a debate if callers should be charged for calling the lifeline. Division Director Cheryl Giarrusso says that would be a mistake.

Cheryl Giarrusso: Instituting some sort of a fee would totally discourage people from calling.

Houston: Amid the debate there is a positive outcome of the number change. Giarrusso says the number change can help our view on mental health.

Giarrusso: I think that all the discussion that we’ve been having nationwide is going to elevate the discussion around mental health.

Houston: Giarrusso says the organization is working on having a 90-percent answer rate. Contact Community Services of Syracuse will be working with other centers to answer all New York State calls.

Houston: Kennedy Houston N-C-C News.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) –The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number has a new look.

The former ten digit number is now 9-8-8. Cheryl Giarrusso, Division Director of Contact Community Services in Syracuse, is excited about the change.

“The three digit code will be a game changer for people who are in crisis because oftentimes when you’re in that state of mind… you’re not thinking clearly” Giarrusso said.

In anticipation of a higher volume of calls, Contact Community Services has begun hiring more staff to help callers. Giarrusso says they have been preparing for this change for two years. She believes a lack of counselors will be an issue  throughout the state. However, the only way to make progress is federal funding.

“It’s federal. It’s SAMHSA which comes through Vibrant which is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline which goes to the office of Mental Health of New York State and then comes to the call centers” Giarrusso said.

While Contact Community Services accepts volunteer support to address other concerns; the lifeline is only managed by trained professionals.

Despite the understaffing concerns, there are those who believe that callers should be charged to maintain the call centers. Giarrusso thinks the idea is ridiculous.

“It should be free and anonymous and available 24/7” Giarrusso said.

Even with these concerns, Giarrusso hopes that the number change will help the conversation about mental health become positive.

“Our goal has always been to reduce that stigma.” Giarusso said,”… To make it okay to ask for help, and to let people know that there is a safe place for them to call, to share whatever it is that’s on their minds”.







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