This month we recognize and celebrate the 1-year birthday of the Topeka site for the Veterans Crisis Line (VCL). This is the third VCL site, following our first call center in Canandaigua, New York and the second in Atlanta, Georgia, opening in 2007 and 2016, respectively. VCL Topeka Responders, Social Services Assistants, Supervisors, Workflow Coordinators, Team Operations Coordinators, and support staff make up approximately 80 of the team’s 800 staff across the three sites.
Birthdays often provide an apt opportunity for reflection and vision… where we’ve been, where we are, where we are going.
Where we are: since our launch in 2007, the VCL has answered more than 3.8 million calls and initiated the dispatch of emergency services to callers in imminent crisis nearly 112,000 times. Since launching chat in 2009 and text services in November 2011, we have answered nearly more than 439,000 and nearly 108,000 requests for chat and text services, respectively. Our staff have forwarded more than 640,000 referrals to local VA Suicide Prevention Coordinators on behalf of Veterans to ensure continuity of care with Veterans local VA providers. VCL Topeka has handled over 40,000 of those calls in the past year, solidifying their role as an integral part of team VCL. We are, literally, the world’s largest suicide prevention clinical call center. We’ve blazed the path and modeled suicide prevention and crisis intervention across phone, chat, and text modalities and we’ve developed exemplar operational support and enhancement services along the way.
Where we are going: the VCL will continue to be an important link and component within the VA’s overall and far-reaching suicide prevention plan. In 2019, we seek to continue and reinforce the provision of world-class crisis intervention services that each and every one of our Veteran callers, chatters, and texters deserve. Beyond, we seek to connect the Veterans and loved ones who reach out to us to appropriate and desired care options within the VA, as well as supportive and reinforcing services within the Veteran’s community and context.
Where we’ve been: today, may we each take some time to reflect upon the numerous individuals who have gone before us; in so doing, they have individually and collectively laid the foundations for who we are today and have created the possibilities for that which lies ahead. Through the literal and the metaphorical sacrificial giving of their blood, sweat, and tears; we are who are today, and we have a bright future filled with the possibility of a new day and previously unseen milestones reached in suicide prevention.
I fondly recall my first awards ceremony as a young Officer with the United States Air Force. I remember being seated at a table in the O-Club with other honorees and their families. I remember seeing a lot of eagles and stars on shoulders; but what I most remember is when I looked to my left…there was an empty table, fully resplendent with dinner ware, chair, and a program. The table remained empty throughout the ceremony; but my eyes never wandered far from it, nor, in turn, my mind. Everything that night, including the award that I walked home with, was imbued with the indelible impression left upon me by that empty chair and table. In that spirit, on this day, I want to proudly acknowledge who we are and excitedly reference where we are going; but I want especially to reverently pause and gratefully reflect upon all those who have sacrificially gone before us.
Happy Birthday to Team VCL Topeka…present, future, and past; we are all one, under and united by the mission.
If you or a Veteran you know is in crisis, call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, text to 838255, or chat online at www.VeteransCrisisLine.net to get immediate help.
For more information about the Veterans Crisis Line, visit www.VeteransCrisisLine.net. For more information about VA’s mental health resources, visit www.mentalhealth.va.gov.
Matthew A. Miller, PhD, MPH
Director of Veterans Crisis Line