Scattergood Foundation

Advancing Innovative Strategies for Change in Behavioral Health

CONTACT USA

Name of Innovative Program: 
Crisis Chat: Online Emotional Support
Sponsoring Organization
CONTACT USA
Name of Innovative Program Lead: 
CONTACT USA
E-mail Address of Innovative Program Lead: 
maryd@ccpg.org
Project Description: 
Crisis Chat is a nationwide project that aims to improve access to mental health care. Crisis Chat links existing accredited crisis call centers around the United States on one website platform, creating a service that will eventually route website visitors to the crisis center that serves their local area. Crisis Chat currently provides essential emotional support and crisis intervention services to thousands of people yearly.  Crisis Chat also serves as a full-service online crisis site, offering both direct and indirect service options. In this way, people accessing the site will be able to pick and choose among these interventions based on their own comfort level, perhaps visiting the site the first time for information and the second time to talk to a chat specialist.  Crisis chat is currently available between the hours of Noon and 1am.  We hope to make it available 24/7 in the future.    
Creativity and Innovation: 
Online Emotional Support (OES) offers an alternative to anyone in need of emotional support who may not feel comfortable reaching out on the crisis hotline. Anecdotal evidence from crisis centers around the country has shown that for many years young people have seemed reticent to reach out to a telephone hotline.  People of all ages may feel more comfortable with the additional layer of anonymity and ease of access afforded by communicating through a computer. This includes people that may have social anxieties, may be deaf or hard-of-hearing or other disabilities that make verbal communication more challenging. CONTACT USA also offers accreditation for programs offering this service, along with the opportunity to join the national CrisisChat.org portal for online emotional support. CONTACT USA has created standards, operational guidelines, training and a technology infrastructure that follow best practices. Crisischat.org has created a national online portal for easy access to crisis support.     
Leadership: 
CONTACT USA (CUSA) is a network of crisis centers across the nation, conceived in 1967 as a response to the growing social issues of a changing nation. CONTACT has evolved into a network of over 50 centers in 20 states.  In 2010, CONTACT USA implemented CrisisChat.org.  Crisis Chat provides help online to anyone who might be depressed, despairing or thinking about suicide, and who would may be reluctant use the telephone to seek out help. Centers are often the initial link in the human service/mental health services chain.  Our mission is to provide leadership and support to centers providing helpline/online services to people in crisis.Board: Mary Drexler, CUSA Executive Director; Tim Jansen, Community Crisis Services, Maryland; Molly McCoy Brick, Agora Crisis Center, New Mexico; Becci Reedus, Iwo City Crisis Center, Eleanor Letcher, NJ; Brenda Patterson, Jackson, MS; Dorothy Triplett, Jackson, MS; Virginia Bainbridge, Member at large; Marshall Ellis, NSPL.
Sustainability: 
CONTACT USA is currently working to collaborate with other national entities providing crisis/suicide prevention services to ensure a safety net of services across the country for all chatters in need of help during times of crisis. As many of our centers are part of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL), we are currently working with NSPL in developing a memorandum of understanding as a step towards working together to insure quality services 24/7 to all those in need of emotional support and crisis intervention on-line.  Centers participating include:
  • Albany, NY
  • Baton Rouge, LA
  • Austin, TX
  • Springdale, AR
  • Seattle, WA
  • Jackson, MS
  • Albuquerque, NM
  • Pennington, NJ
  • Johnson City, IA      
  • Boston, MA
  • Nashville, TN
  • 3 centers in Maryland
As we look forward to partnering with the national Lifeline, centers in the network will grow and be able to serve many more individuals in need during a time of crisis. 
Replicability: 
CrisisChat.org is the first nationally-based online crisis service utilizing the expertise of crisis centers already providing critical, life-saving support to Americans.  Oversight of the service is provided by CONTACT USA, with written standards and accreditation required for online emotional support. The centers participating uphold the values and rigorous standards of this service.  Crisischat.org provides resources/information on mental health issues and the opportunity for self-screenings for common mental health disorders. Crisis chat links visitors to local services that can further assist them. Services are now available Monday-Friday 1pm - 12am Eastern Time; 6 hours on Saturday. We are constantly working to increase our capacity.  If you cannot reach a Crisis Chat Specialist due to high demand, chatters are directed to 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for support; if in imminent danger to dial 9-1-1. Working with the Lifeline and other national organizations in the future will help us to increase capacity.
Results/Outcomes: 
As of the Fall of 2012 some current demographic data on who is utilizing the service include the following: 42% are teens; 35% are in 20s; 8% are in 30s; 8% are in 40s; 1.1% are above 50; 82% are under the age of 30. 81% are female; 15% are male; 4% Questioning; 3% Transgendered. The Chats by Main Concern (self-reported) include: Some may have given more than 1 main concern: 45% Depression; 11% Relationship Issues; 34 % preferred not to share specifics at the time; 5% Family issues; 2% Physical/Emotional Abuse; 2% Anxiety; 2% Addictions; 2% Financial Issues This project has grown rapidly and there is a need to seek funding to remain sustainable as we look at future collaborative efforts with national organizations whose missions match those of CONTACT USA.  
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