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Health & Medicine

Rep. Katko: Suicide Crisis Centers Need Additional Funding to Handle Influx of Calls

John Smith
WAER-FM 88.3

Suicide Crisis Centers in Central New York and across the nation could get a boost in federal funding under bi-partisan legislation introduced by Congressmember John Katko.   This bill would expand the services available to those in crisis by allowing more robust staffing of the Suicide Prevention Lifeline.  

Cheryl Girarrusso is director of the Crisis Intervention Services of Contact Community Services, and explains the recent increase in call volume to the lifeline.

"We saw a huge spike after the death of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. We couldn’t manage, nor could any other center in the country manage the spike in call volume. It was incredible and it has not abated. It continues. I think people became aware and they began using the service."

Giarrusso says that studies show phone lines are a strong preventative measure by helping people with thoughts of suicide feel less alone and less isolated.  The lines provide them with a safe space to talk and share their stories.  As Co-Chair of the bipartisan Suicide Prevention Task Force and Mental Health Caucus, Katko says he’s actively working to improve access to mental healthcare.

Credit John Smith / WAER-FM 88.3
WAER-FM 88.3

"We did a very in-depth study, from schools, all the way up through, and found out what the shortfalls are here locally.  And thank God Upstate is responding.  Upstate’s going to have an inpatient unit.  That’s going to be one of the first pediatric inpatient units around here.  If a parent’s working and can’t get out of a job, it’s almost impossible to get their kids to treatment centers that are out of town."

The Suicide Prevention Lifeline Improvement Act would increase funding to the lifeline from $12 million to $50 million.  It would also require Health and Human Services to follow-up with callers, and ensure resources are available to friends and family of those in crisis.