Disaster Distress Helpline release

Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services’ Suicide Prevention Center
Named One Of Five Centers For National Disaster Distress Helpline

L.A. County agency will play pivotal role in U.S. disaster relief

CULVER CITY, Calif. Jan. 2, 2014 – Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services announced today that its Suicide Prevention Center has just established operations as a Disaster Distress Helpline (DDH) Core Region Center, one of only five such centers in the country.    

As Core Region Center 1 in FEMA Regions IX and X in the western United States, the Suicide Prevention Center will take calls and texts from anyone in the United States and its territories who experiences psychological distress as a result of natural or human-caused disasters through the Helpline, a free, confidential, 24/7/365 crisis support service funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services and administered by Link2Health Solutions (L2HS).  Core Region Centers are members of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a hotline that connects individuals contemplating suicide to the nearest crisis center in the 160-member network.  Lifeline is also administered by L2HS. 

According to L2HS Helpline Director Christian Burgess, the Helpline is in a perpetually active state so that as soon as a disaster happens, trained staff and volunteers from the Core Region Centers can respond to calls to 1-800-985-5990 or texts using keywords ‘TalkWithUs’ (or ‘Hablanos’ for Spanish speakers) to short code 66746.  The network uses a “round robin” system to route calls so that they are distributed equally to all five centers in the network.  Counselors are also on hand for the difficult months that follow a disaster, when those impacted commonly experience stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health concerns. Helpline CRCs provide supportive counseling, crisis assessment and intervention, and referrals to select disaster behavioral health state and local resources. 

A $75,000 grant provided start-up funding.  Burgess noted, “The selection process was highly competitive and involved independent reviewers from different parts of the country.  Among those centers awarded DDH grants to cover ‘Hablanos’ texts, only Didi Hirsch had the capability to provide 24/7 Spanish-language service.” 

The other awardees were Crisis Intervention of Houston, 2-1-1 Heart of Florida United Way, Mental Health Association of New York City – H2H Connect Crisis Contact Center, and Metro Crisis Services in Denver. 

Reached for comment, Los Angeles County Fifth District Supervisor Don Knabe said, “This award is great news for L.A. County.   I supported Didi Hirsch’s application because I saw the tremendous potential benefit in it for residents.  The agency’s accomplishment is a win for us all.”

“We are in a period of intense preparation,” explained Sandri Kramer, the Suicide Prevention Center’s Crisis Line Director.  “We are training our suicide prevention counselors in trauma-focused psychological first aid and disaster crisis counseling as well as building out our database to quickly download local resources in a crisis.  Over the next several months, the Center will ready its state-of-the-art emergency notification system, standardize protocols for disaster texting, and enhance overall emergency preparedness, in partnership with City and County departments.”

“We are ready for this challenge,” said Didi Hirsch President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Kita S. Curry.  “Our Suicide Prevention Center has helped people through Hurricane Katrina, the Santa Monica Farmers Market tragedy, and so many other extremely tough moments.  Thanks to this grant award, disaster relief will become a core part of Suicide Prevention Center’s work.”



About Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services: With more than 70 years of experience, Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services transforms lives by providing quality mental health and substance abuse services in community where stigma or poverty limit access.  From 11 locations and more than 100 schools throughout Los Angeles and Orange Counties, Didi Hirsch helps more than 74,000 children and adults each year, offering services that range from community education to outpatient care to residential treatment.  The first in the nation, its Suicide Prevention Center today has 24/7/365 English- and Spanish-speaking counselors on its Crisis Line.  It offers online emotional support, bereavement support groups, and community prevention and crisis intervention training.  Learn more at www.didihirsch.org.


Media contact:

Dienna D’Olimpio – BBPR, Inc
(310) 980-6936