News : VA Crisis Line to Ramp Up — Immediately
Canadaigua, NY, USA, Sept 18, 2015 -- The national Veterans Crisis Line that saves lives from its headquarters at the Canandaigua VA Medical Center will get more support in the form of 65 additional staff members to be hired "immediately," Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan Gibson said Thursday.
Gibson visited the VA on Fort Hill Avenue to check the progress of the call center, something he does monthly by phone and does regularly in person as well. Gibson last visited the call center this March when he promised an expansion of the space on the campus now used by 320 responders and support staff.
It did expand and is in line to do so again — in space as well as growing to 385 employees, the deputy VA chief told reporters following his tour and talk with local VA staff and Congressional reps.
"It is collaborative work, to bring all the expertise we can to the crisis line," he said.
During a casual discussion with reporters, Gibson shared his observations and hopes for the future of the national Veterans Crisis Line that is playing a big role in helping reduce veteran suicide.
"I am hugely impressed," Gibson said. The people working the crisis line are passionate, committed and "deliver great results," he said.
Staff are committed to helping veterans whether the veteran is in crisis or simply needs advice or counseling for a routine matter. Handling this overwhelming volume of calls makes the job particularly difficult, Gibson said. He talked about ways this is being addressed, noting that improving technology and going to staggered work shifts, which started Sept. 6, have made a huge difference. Gibson said that in less than a week the number of calls being handled by resources other than the call center responders has dropped dramatically. The new method took pressure off responders who are now more able to spend their time talking directly with veterans in crisis.
Such a move is part of "strengthening business practices," said Gibson, to help the center run more efficiently so it can be even more successful in its mission.
"The veteran is the center of everything we do," he added. He said that taking care of employees is equally important. Employees need to receive the support and care they need, he said. "We need a resilient, strong workforce to do what we need to do."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Wednesday, September 23, 2015