Lines for Life awarded exclusive national veterans contract
Portland-based Lines for Life has been awarded an exclusive national contract to be the sole backup call center for the national Veterans Crisis Line.
"We couldn't be more proud of having been chosen as the only backup center to the Veterans Crisis Line," says Lines for Life CEO Dwight Holton. "We got this contract because we have a proven track record of supporting military service members and veterans."
The Oregon-based nonprofit is hiring an additional 26 call-takers to field the estimated 1,200 additional calls each month from the Veterans Crisis Line when it experiences high call volume, service interruptions, or staffing fluctuations. The expanded operation will go live on Sept. 12.
The announcement of the one-year, $3.4 million contract was made at a Wednesday morning roundtable discussion with Oregon U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, representatives of Lines for Life, national and state military officials, and others. Wyden said Lines for Life was selected over other crisis call centers in the country.
"To have Dwight Holton as our point person was extremely valuable," Wyden said of the former Oregon U.S. Attorney. "Veterans have to know they will get a swift response from Line for Life.
The hirings will nearly double the number of Lines for Life call takers, who are assisted by around 250 volunteers.
Since 2012, Lines for Life has served alongside a handful of other crisis call centers to provide backup support to the Veterans Crisis Line. In 2016 alone, Lines for Life fielded 30,221 calls from the Veterans Crisis Line. Wyden said he pushed the Trump Administration to award an exclusive backup contract to the most qualified call center as one of the best ways to improve services to veterans.
The Veterans Crisis Line is operated by the Mental Health Association of New York City.
During the discussion. Wyden and others talked about the increasing medical and mental health needs of veterans. John Lee, senior vice president of the Westcare health system and former director of the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs, said aging Vietnam veterans are now the largest single block of surviving veterans, and that many of them are dealing with such problems as opiod addiction, especially in rural areas.
Wyden responded that he had opposed congressional Republican efforts to repeal and replacement Obamacare largesly because it would have reduced future funding for Medicaid, which pays for addiction treatment.
"They're going to have to run over me to take those services away," said Wyden, the ranking member of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee.
Also participating in the discussion was: Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs Director Cameron Smith; Lines for Life Assistant Crisis Lines Director Tom Milligan, Portland police crisis negotiator and Lines for Life volunteer Officer Bill Ollenbrook; and Lines for Life crisis intervention specialists Andrea Gardner and Erin Miller.
"Our passionate staff of veterans, family members of veterans, and other civilians are highly trained, well-versed in military culture, and perfectly positioned to provide superb quality care for those who call the Veterans Crisis Line," said Holton.
Lines for Life has offered crisis services for more than 20 years. Its free 24-hour Military Helpline can be reached at 1-888-457-4838.
For more information, visit www.linesforlife.org.