Sometimes all it takes to make someone feel better is a phone call.

It’s why the Children’s Home Society of Florida (CHS) launched the Family Support Warm Line, a free hotline that connects callers to a counselor with a call or text.

Lindsey Cannon, the regional executive director of CHS, said the organization realized that with the coronavirus outbreak, families are going through a massive shift in their routine, and some teens or young adults are facing isolation at home. They needed something like this now more than ever.

“We knew it was really important to launch a statewide effort to let people know there are people out there you can reach out to,” Cannon said. “You don’t have to be at the point of wanting to harm yourself to want to make a phone call. You can call us if you’re frustrated and need some help processing and we’re there.”

Diana Born, CHS’s clinical program director, said the warm line is manned 24 hours a day and always staffed with at least one clinician and one supervisor. All of the clinicians and most supervisors are licensed.

Some of the therapists are multilingual and some are LGBTQ-competent, meaning they are trained to work with callers on related subjects. All calls are confidential and callers can remain anonymous if they choose.

“What happens with the ‘warm line’ is that the families will call into the number,” Born said. “When they call in, they are directed to either select if they want to speak with someone to put in a counseling referral and they have the option to actually talk with someone. There is a person they can talk to on the other line. They can also text our number and we can communicate with them by text in case they’re more comfortable doing that.”

Since the warm line’s launching May 1, Born has experienced many topics from callers.

“I’ve covered a variety of different calls from parents who are just frustrated and at their wits’ end because they’ve now become their child’s teacher and their kids are home all day and they’re at work full time,” Born said. “We’ve had people who have reached out to us who are in domestic violence situations that we’ve had to give resources to. We’ve had people who have reached out wanting information about our adoption services and just general resources.”

The service can provide people with various resources. If the clinician can’t connect a caller with a resource, they will research to find one and follow up.

The line can help anyone in Florida because the organization has offices statewide, Cannon said. The local branch is the Ashley Offerdahl Counseling Program.

“It doesn’t matter if (Born) is here answering the phone and you have someone in Orlando that happens to call,” Cannon said. “Guess what, we have an office in Orlando, and that is something we can resource you with quickly. It’s not something we have to wait around and try to dig for. We already have those established relationships and connections wherever you are to help you get to the solution that you need.”

The line has also freed up some of the time clinicians spend driving places, Born said.

“With telecounseling, I can serve a child who is in Miami when I am in Pensacola,” Born said. “It allows us to reach out to more kids and be able to serve a wider population. We know our services are good services, and we want to be able to help as many families as we can.”

The beauty in it is it’s not just a referral line, Cannon said. It provides on-the-spot counseling, too.

“Sometimes you don’t even know what you’re asking for, and you really need someone to talk you through whatever your struggle is at that point,” Cannon said. “Clinicians are trained to look at your life from a variety of ways and ask questions that are important to help determine what your needs really are and point you in the right direction.”

While it’s not a crisis line, the clinicians are trauma-informed.

Sometimes it’s hard to reach out for help locally, Cannon said. The name “warm line” implies the warmth they can provide to callers.

“Maybe someone would know you or maybe someone would judge you—there’s all those thoughts that go through our heads of what people would think of your personal family struggles,” Cannon said. “That’s what we wanted people to know. It was somewhere for them to call that is safe and warm and you don’t have to be at the end of your rope to pick up the phone. It’s a comfortable place to call to get whatever help you need—even if it’s something that CHS doesn’t provide.”

Cannon is a believer in CHS’s mission. She loves the organization, she said.

“I feel very fortunate in a time like this to be able to say that we haven’t had to furlough one staff member; we haven’t had to stop our business,” Cannon said. “We have continued to serve people this entire time. I’m very proud of that. I’m proud of our organization for stepping up and creating something like a warm line for families who had no idea they would ever come to struggle like this. You just can’t plan for it.”

Originally posted by: inweekly