Minnesota Crisis Counseling Line Continues Fight for Survival

Canvas Health joins several legislators in asking the Minnesota House of Representatives and Minnesota Senate to appropriate funding this session for Crisis Connection, a telephone counseling program that helps triage, stabilize, and assist callers in reaching a place of emotional and physical safety. The legislation, HF501 and SF776, appropriates $969,000 – or just 17 cents per Minnesotan per year – to keep Crisis Connection operational. Without this funding, Crisis Connection will begin shutting down its operations after May 21, 2018. Crisis Connection serves more than 52,000 callers from across Minnesota each year.

“Crisis Connection is a lifeline for thousands of Minnesotans. These are our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, neighbors and friends – and we all have an interest in keeping this important program running,” said Senator Karin Housley (R-St. Mary’s Point). “Without funding for this life-saving public service, the calls would be routed to already-overburdened law enforcement agencies and emergency rooms. For Minnesotans struggling with mental illness, loneliness, and addiction – and those at risk of harming themselves or others – having access to immediate resources could be the difference between life and death.”

Canvas Health CEO Matt Eastwood explained that until now, the agency has cobbled together funding for the service, which is accessed free-of-charge by callers.

“Even with fundraising and contracts, this service still has run at a significant annual deficit. Crisis Connection is an essential part of our state’s mental health safety net, and it needs sustainable, ongoing funding,” Eastwood said.

For nearly 50 years, counselors at Crisis Connection have offered life-saving support to Minnesotans. The Crisis Connection phone numbers have become a part of the culture of crisis support in the state, and are posted on websites, bulletin boards, and in literature in thousands of schools, mental health clinics, first responder offices, and State and community agencies. Often mental health therapists refer clients to Crisis Connection for after-hours counseling, and a closure would force them to identify an alternative or leave their clients unserved when they are unavailable. Additionally, mental health crisis calls are transferred to Crisis Connection from United Way 211 and 911 call operators. Crisis Connection is the only crisis call center in Minnesota responding to calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL).

If Crisis Connection ceases operations due to lack of funding, a person could still receive crisis counseling by calling the NSPL phone number, but these calls will no longer be routed to an organization based in Minnesota and familiar with the resources available within the state. Instead, they would likely be routed to a call center in another state – one less familiar with resources available in Minnesota. A lack of timely, appropriate care could have devastating consequences for a vulnerable person in crisis.

“People in Minnesota benefit greatly from having this service operated locally. Our trained counselors have developed relationships with local emergency responders and mental health providers, which, along with the robust database that we have built, help them efficiently and successfully connect people in crisis to resources that can provide them with the best long-term care,” Eastwood said. “We’re their neighbors, and we understand Minnesota – from the mental health and hospital systems, to the geography, to the nuances of Minnesota conversations.”

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Help save lives! Ask your legislators to support HF501 and SF776 to appropriate 17 cents per Minnesotan, per year for Crisis Connection, a suicide prevention telephone counseling program that helps triage, stabilize, and assist callers in reaching a place of emotional and physical safety. Without this funding, Crisis Connection will be forced to stop serving more than 52,000 Minnesotans per year on May 21, 2018. Find your legislators here: https://www.leg.state.mn.us/leg/faq/faqtoc?id=47

Download a letter template to send to your legislator here.

Make a donation to support Canvas Health/Crisis Connection.