This Tuesday, thanks to a new facility in Atlanta, Georgia, there will be twice as many professionals to field Veterans Affairs Veteran Crisis Line calls — calls to the phone number that aids vets during suicidal episodes and other crucial times.
To many, this expansion beyond critical.
According to Military Times, the hotline has answered more than two million calls and intervened more than 67,000 times in its nineteen-year history — in many instances saving the veteran’s life.
“The work at the Veterans Crisis Line is some of the most important work we do in VA.”
“Today we follow through on our commitment to give those who save lives every day at the Crisis Line the training, additional staff and modern call center technology they need to make the Veterans Crisis Line a gold standard operation,” the VA said through one of their spokespeople, Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson, in a written statement.
The only call center before this new one was built was in Canandaigua, New York. With the additional facility, call responder numbers goes from 310 to more than 500, and from 43 social service assistants to almost 80.
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Callers should not notice any difference in operations, but will be more likely to talk to specialists trained in military and veterans issues with the additional staff on hand. During times of heavy use, callers to the veterans line are transferred to mental health professionals at the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, but those specialists may not have access to some VA program and resource information.
Department officials said the second office is part of the broader MyVA initiative, the bureaucratic restructuring plan created by VA Secretary Bob McDonald. Plans for the expansion were announced earlier this year.
But the opening also comes just days after Congress passed new legislation titled the “No Veterans Crisis Line Call Should Go Unanswered Act,” requiring VA officials to develop plans for improving response times and rates for the service.
In June, the program’s director abruptly resigned amid reports that high numbers of calls to the veterans line were going unanswered by VA staffers, and instead being routed to backup specialists.
The number for the Veteran Crisis Line is 1-800-273-8255. Select “option 1” for a VA staffer. Vets, active-duty service members and their families can also text 838255 or go to VeteransCrisisLine.net.
According to nationwide statistics, about 20 vets commit suicide every single day. Of those who do, only six are users of the VA and its services.