Safe Harbor joined four partner agencies Monday morning to announce the launch of the Greater Richmond Regional crisis hotline number, (804) 612-6126.
This new phone number consolidates access to services for survivors of domestic and sexual violence throughout the greater Richmond area.
The GRR hotline is the product of the Regional Collaborative that includes Safe Harbor, the YWCA of Richmond, Hanover Safe Place, the James House and Project Hope at Quin Rivers.
In a press conference at the Community Foundation, the CEO of the YWCA, Linda Tissiere, said that each state-accredited domestic and sexual violence service provider is required to maintain a 24-hour crisis hotline. However, some of the agencies relied on forwarding their callers to the statewide hotline number at times when they were unable to provide their services directly.
“Not all of our partnership agencies had the staff for a full-time hotline,” Tissiere said. As a consequence, callers sometimes had to call back or call several times before they were connected to the appropriate channels of support in their area. To improve the efficiency of their respective hotlines, the directors of these agencies spent the last year and a half working together to solve their staffing problems and streamline these resources for the public.
Tissiere referenced the success of the Regional Hospital Accompaniment Response Team, a collaborative project from 2009. She identified R-HART as the “impetus to expand the collaboration and find common ground in services that we wanted to do and had to do, because it made good sense.” The Collaborative came up with an effective solution by forwarding calls from each agency’s hotline to a new, comprehensive hotline number to encompass the entire region.
The Greater Richmond Regional Hotline is staffed 24/7 by paid specialists and volunteers, who are managed by the YWCA and have been cross-trained to explain the sexual and domestic violence services available through each agency, throughout the region. With the new hotline number, one call can immediately connect the caller with a knowledgeable resource who can conduct a safety assessment of the situation and explain the caller’s options moving forward.
Some agencies in the Collaborative will only forward their calls to the GRR hotline after business hours and on weekends, while others will use the hotline number at all times. Jodi Leonard, the Interim Director of Safe Harbor, clarified that Safe Harbor’s hotline number will remain in use and will also transfer calls to the GRR hotline.
“The important piece is that the user doesn’t know the difference,” Leonard said. “Whatever the number they dial, even the number in their purse on a hotline card, they can still get services immediately.”
The biggest announcement at Monday’s press conference was that the switch to a new number had quietly taken place in January. Without any fanfare, the members of the Collaborative began a “soft launch” at the beginning of the year by forwarding calls from their respective hotlines to the new number. The behind-the-scenes trial period allowed each agency to ensure that their callers were connecting with the resources they needed.
Emily Barker, the GRR hotline coordinator, stated that the new number has received over 2,000 calls since the beginning of the year. As public awareness increases, she predicts the hotline could receive as many as 5,000 calls by the end of 2014. Barker shared a story about a local mother who was referred to emergency housing services through a single call to the hotline, and she emphasized the challenge survivors of domestic and sexual abuse face when they share their painful experiences with others.
“I know how hard it is to tell a story once, much less three to four times,” Barker said. With the newly consolidated hotline, “A person can call one time, tell their story one time and get help.”
The YWCA received crucial support to develop the hotline through a $50,000 award from the Jenkins Foundation, which contributed to the staff training and marketing efforts needed to launch the new number. Bobbie Ukrop, Chairman of the Jenkins Foundation Board, stated at the press conference that the unified approach of the Regional Collaborative is a smart use of community resources.
“The negative impact of violence impacts the overall health of our community,” Ukrop said. “The Jenkins Foundation is committed to expanding access to community-based services, particularly for underserved populations.”
The Pauley Family Foundation matched the Jenkins Foundation award, and other Community Foundation partners have also invested in the Greater Richmond Regional Hotline.