VIA LINK offers lifeline to those in crisis

Whether as a source for information or the supplier of a kind voice and listening ear in times of crisis, VIA LINK provides a lifeline 24 hours a day, seven days a week. VIA LINK is an information source and offers connection to vital sources in the Greater New Orleans area, enabling people to find information and resources to help themselves and others through information, referral and crisis intervention.

In 1989, VIA launched a free, 24-hour telephone counseling service for the region providing crisis intervention, suicide prevention, and information and referral for a multitude of needs, known as the Cope Line.

The organization’s name was changed to VIA LINK in 1999, emphasizing its role as a link to vital services. In 2001,VIA LINK implemented the 2-1-1 abbreviated dialing code to make it easier to reach the call center.

“211 is a help and human service, information and referral helpline,” said LaVondra Dobbs, CEO of VIA LINK. “Whether it’s needing to know where the nearest shelter is open, where to go to find food, or if you need dental care, and can’t afford it, where you can go for low cost or free assistance, we can provide answers.”

In the event of a crisis, one may call 211 and speak to a crisis counselor. One may also text or online chat with a counselor in those situations, making it quickly accessible for all.

“That online chat doesn’t leave a footprint,” Dobbs adds. “For victims of domestic abuse, trafficking … it’s a safe place to reach out for help without revealing your identity.”

Dobbs said there were more than 102,000 instances of contact made with the nonprofit’s call center last year.

“It’s really a lifeline for some folks,” Dobbs said. “You really have people who may be wanting somebody to talk to, or be in pain, and can call to get through a rough spot. The confidentiality we give them is very important.”

She added that many crisis calls come during times of disaster, noting call volume is known to double or triple.

Ninety-four percent of the country’s population has access to 211, a nationwide program that works through about 250 agencies across the U.S. VIA LINK is part of the National Suicide Prevention lifeline network (1-800-273-TALK) and is one of two accredited crisis centers in Louisiana that are part of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Network.

The Crisis Teen Text Line is another service provided by VIA LINK. The Teen Text Line is primarily set to serve youth ages 13-22 experiencing emotional distress. Counselors are able to provide emotional support, information and/or referrals to community resources, and crisis intervention as needed.

The VIA LINK service is free of charge, thanks in large part to its partnership with United Way.  VIA LINK handles calls for the following area codes – 504, 985, and 337. Its Community Resource Directory provides a comprehensive, up-to-date listing of health and human services. One can access this information by simply dialing 2-1-1 (or 1-800-749-2673). For more information, visit vialink.org.

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