Framingham, MA, USA, Feb, 2018 -- After successfully growing the Call2Talk crisis line into a statewide resource, Eileen Davis is preparing for the next big step in her career.
Davis, who launched Call2Talk for the United Way of Tri-County, will take over in April as vice president of Mass2-1-1, a referral hotline that connects callers with heating assistance, shelter, food programs and other services.
Davis, a longtime Framingham resident, recently discussed her background and hopes for the 2-1-1 program, which is also based in the city:
Getting her start: "Most of my professional experience has been in crisis center management," said Davis, who began volunteering at a crisis hotline soon after she moved to Framingham in 1986. "It was just a way to connect and get familiar with the area," she recalled, adding that she could empathize with callers feeling isolated and lonely as a newcomer to the area.
Davis stayed in the field, and when the United Way of Tri-County identified a gap in mental health services in Framingham, she designed Call2Talk as a means to fill it.
What is Call2Talk? The service, now more than four years old, provides confidential support to callers around the state who are in distress or at risk of harming themselves. Davis recruited volunteers and launched the service in December 2013. Since then, it has grown from fielding five calls its first month to more than 40,000 per year.
"They’re looking for emotional support," Davis said of the callers, "someone to really listen to them. To validate their feelings, to feel their pain." Callers in distress also develop a safety plan, helping them guide their actions after they get off the phone.
Call2Talk is now part of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a network of crisis centers linked by a single telephone number. Call2Talk also merged with Mass2-1-1 last year, providing a means for residents to easily be referred to mental health and suicide prevention services when they call the 2-1-1 system.
Moving to Mass2-1-1: Operated by United Way affiliates across the state, the 211 service links together myriad services. Its database includes some 25,000 records — everything from county food banks to shelters and state assistance programs.
Phone workers help callers sort through the options, searching by geography, type of service, hours of operation and a host of other criteria. The database of 211 referrals is also accessible online at mass211.org. The website is heavily used, but the ability to call and speak to someone is vital for many residents, Davis said.
"Lots of times people do actually want to talk to somebody ..." she said, "and that’s why the phone calls are just so important. Sometimes people don’t really understand how to start the process, how to navigate the search, or how to know what they need in the first place, or that the services exist."
Plans for the future? While it’s more than 10 years old, Mass2-1-1 is still unknown to many people in the state. As the next vice president, Davis said she hopes to reach more people in need of help.
"I really want to grow the awareness and make everybody educated about it," Davis said, "whether they need it for themselves or someone they care about as well. ... With that will come growing the capacity of internally being able to respond to all of those people that increase demand on the system as well."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
Published: Wednesday, February 21, 2018