In the last six months, Multnomah County partner Lines for Life has connected with more than 27,000 veterans, active duty members or their family members through its 24/7 crisis line. Now, Lines for Life will meet the needs of veterans in crisis nationwide as the nonprofit becomes the Veterans Crisis Line’s sole backup call center.
The move significantly expands Lines for Life’s military crisis intervention services, filling a critical need for veterans across the country. The partnership also brings more than 30 jobs to Oregon and allows Lines for Life to upgrade and expand its state-of-the-art crisis call center.
Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury and Commissioner Sharon Meieran delivered remarks at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday celebrating the call center’s expansion. They spoke alongside U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, Lines for Life Chief Executive Officer Dwight Holton, and Ryan Seymour, a military crisis intervention specialist who’s a veteran himself.
“For years, Multnomah County and Lines for Life have worked to try and ensure everyone in our community has access to crisis intervention services,” Chair Kafoury said. “Lines for Life has been a great partner in this work, and today’s commitment by the Veterans Crisis Line reinforces that fact.”
“One of the most important needs in our community is healthcare for our veterans, particularly mental health care,” said Commissioner Meieran. “It is clear how desperately we need the Veterans Crisis Line. Expanding this resource is a huge step for helping veterans and their families.”
The Veterans Administration established the Veterans Crisis Line in 2007 to provide crisis intervention services to members of the armed forces. Last year, Lines for Life was selected to serve as the VCL’s “Ambassador Center” to help meet the needs of veterans in crisis.
Mental health is a growing concern for veterans across the United States. Veterans are more likely than civilians to experience post traumatic stress disorder, depression and traumatic brain injuries. Every day nationally, 20 veterans die by suicide. Veterans, family members of veterans, and highly trained civilians work around the clock at Lines for Life headquarters to support veterans who are struggling.
One of those call takers is Seymour, who served as a sergeant in the Oregon Army National Guard. After a fellow squad member died by suicide, he looked for a way to make a difference. He says he’s found meaning by helping other veterans in need.
“I remember when my roommate and I were standing over (his friend’s) grave on Memorial Day. We thought, ‘What do we need to do to be part of the solution?’” he said. “I’m one of the people answering the phone.”
As local leaders celebrated Lines for Life’s expansion, they looked forward to the weekend, when Americans will celebrate Veterans Day. It’s a chance to honor those who served, speakers said, and renew their efforts to promote mental wellness among veterans nationwide.
“This Sunday is Veterans Day,” Chair Kafoury said. “It’s a time for us to honor all who have served. And I can’t think of a better way to show our support for our veteran community than by expanding this vital resource.”
The Veterans Crisis Line is a free, confidential resource available to anyone, even if they’re not registered with the VA or enrolled in VA health care. Staff have special training and experience in helping veterans of all ages, circumstances and backgrounds. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and press 1.