National Demand Prompts Expansion At New York-Based Veterans Crisis Line

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ROCHESTER, NY (WXXI) – Increasing demand means another expansion for the Veterans Crisis Line (VCL). The Canandaigua-based facility is looking to hire another 30 to 50 people.

The job requires some specific skills. Responders take calls from veterans and active duty service members experiencing some of the most difficult struggles of their lives.

“We never know what kind of call we’re going to be getting here at the Veterans Crisis Line,” said Patrick Phillips, assistant deputy director. “That’s why we really try to find the best applicants to come and work with us. We want to make sure that they’re able and trained to take the various calls that come in to us.”

Some of the available positions are for responders, who often serve as a life-saving resource for veterans who are at risk of suicide. Demand for the service has increased as access to it has grown.

Veterans who call any VA medical center can press 7 and be immediately directed to the crisis line. There are plans to further expand that connection to community-based outpatient clinics.

The Veterans Crisis Line has grown exponentially in the past two years. When it was established in Canandaigua ten years ago, there were only a handful of employees. Today, there are about 300 who work there. Another 300 employees are based in Atlanta, Georgia, and 50 work at the VCL that was started in Topeka, Kansas this spring.  Some Canandaigua employees transferred to those locations, creating more openings locally.

In addition to responders, the center employs social service assistants who stand by during a call so they can help determine the location of a caller in crisis if they are in need of immediate emergency services.

The job obviously comes with stress, but wellness program coordinator Emily duMee said that is outweighed by the rewards.  “It’s very purposeful work that we do here and you never go home from any shift and don’t feel like you’ve impacted a human being. It’s unlike any job I’ve ever had before.”

Phillips says applicants should have a background in mental health or a four year social services degree. The Crisis Line is especially interested in hiring veterans with those qualifications. The positions start at just over $50,000 and come with benefits including health insurance, life insurance, and a retirement plan.

There is a job fair Thursday, May 31 from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Thomas Flynn Campus Center at Monroe Community College in Brighton.  VCL employees and human resources experts will be on hand to talk to applicants about the work and conduct mock interviews.

The available positions will also be posted at usajobs.gov on Thursday. To pre-register for the job fair, email Emily.duMee@va.gov

The Veterans Crisis Line is open 24/7. Any active duty service member, veteran, or family member can call  800-273-8255 and press 1 or text to 838255.

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