MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — In a last minute move, a suicide prevention hotline received the funding needed to keep answering incoming crisis calls.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and several other crisis hotlines, operated by Canvas Health, were set to shut down Friday at 5 p.m. State lawmakers didn’t provide the funding to keep the call center operations going. On Thursday, the Minnesota Department of Health and several other organizations stepped in to help.
When Laura Weber answers a call at the Canvas Health call center, it could mean the difference between life and death.
“We take calls from folks who are on the verge of taking action to end their lives. We take calls from people who need daily stabilization and we take calls from people in an immediate crisis situation and don’t know what to do,” said Laura Weber who managers the Canvas Health call center.
Laura and her staff are there to listen and offer help in a crisis, 24/7, even though the Canvas Health call center faced a crisis of its own.
“We were at the point, from a financial standpoint, of needing to scale back our services,” said Matt Eastwood, CEO of Canvas Health.
When the Minnesota Legislature did not provide funding for Canvas Health this past session, it affected the 13 crisis hotlines, operated by the company, including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Word that the crisis resources were in jeopardy spread through the media this week, Eastwood said the reaction was almost immediate.
“It really has been a pretty dramatic outpouring of sentiment about that, this is an important service and we need to preserve it in Minnesota”
A day before the funding ran out, the Minnesota Department of Health provided a $139,000 grant to keep the NSPL staffed. Other agencies stepped forward to help fund the remaining hotlines.
“Thank goodness the work will continue,” Weber said.
Eastwood said there’s enough funding through the health department and other organizations to keep the crisis hotlines afloat until the legislative session.
Canvas health’s CEO believes the public support will help with the long-term funding of these resources.