Memphis Crisis Center Gets $34,060 Grant from Plough Foundation to Expand Services for Seniors in Distress

Second Annual Memphis Crisis Center Awareness Week Set for Sept. 10-16 

The Memphis Crisis Center, which for more than 40 years has provided support to those in distress through its volunteer-staffed crisis hotline, has received a $34,060 grant from the Plough Foundation to expand its crisis intervention services for seniors in the Mid-South.

The grant comes as the Memphis Crisis Center prepares for its second annual Memphis Crisis Center Awareness Week Sept. 10-16. The observance is designed to increase visibility, volunteers and funds for the center.

“We are very excited to be launching a new crisis hotline to address the needs of the growing senior population in the Mid-South,” said Mike LaBonte, Memphis Crisis Center executive director. “The problems for this group are diverse — mental health issues, physical disability, poverty, abuse, neglect and social isolation. This service is being made possible by a generous grant from the Plough Foundation, and is part of an overall funding initiative by the foundation to address elder issues in the community.”

LaBonte said the grant will allow the center to develop procedures and referral resources for elderly callers in distress, and will allow for tracking and analyzing data to guide ongoing efforts. It will also help fund volunteer training for handling issues affecting seniors, as well as targeted recruitment and outreach so the community knows there is a place for seniors to turn.

The services are definitely needed, he said, pointing out that during the last year, the center has seen a 30 percent increase in calls related to issues involving the elderly. “The Plough Foundation is really moving Memphis forward on elder issues, and we are so grateful that the foundation is making this help possible for the Memphis Crisis Center and the community,” LaBonte said.

In 2013, volunteers answered nearly 19,000 calls of all kinds to the confidential crisis hotline at (901) CRISIS7 or (901) 274-7477. They helped Mid-Southerners deal with mental health and emotional problems, crime and family violence, poverty and material needs, addiction and substance abuse and many other issues. More than 1,300 of those calls came from people considering suicide.

The second annual Memphis Crisis Center Awareness Week is an effort to ensure there are enough volunteers to answer the calls and funds to operate the center.

On Sept. 10, the Memphis Crisis Center’s monthly fundraiser with Rizzo’s Diner at 106 G.E. Patterson, “Less to Wine About Wednesdays,” kicks off the observance. On the second Wednesday of every month, Rizzo’s donates a generous portion of proceeds from lunch and dinner to the Memphis Crisis Center. Call (901) 523-2033 for reservations.

Through Sept. 16, the Memphis Crisis Center will be using social media to reach out to the community on various issues, including mental illness, bullying, domestic violence, aging and illness. Anyone can join the conversation on Facebook at facebook.com/memphiscrisiscenter or Twitter at #901Crisis7, adding a favorite quote, participating in daily discussions on the featured topics, or memorializing a loved one lost to suicide.

What is now the Memphis Crisis Center was founded in 1970. Today, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) partners with the organization, providing its call center, training facility and administrative offices on the UTHSC campus.

Along with the crisis hotline, the office administers the Call4Kids Hotline and the Ryan White HIV Care Line. It partners with CrimeStoppers on the SeniorBSafe Line, giving seniors a place to call if they feel unsafe in their neighborhoods, and serves as the local affiliate of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK). It is also a substation for the National Veterans Hotline and the National Spanish Hotline. The Memphis Crisis Center provides the after-hours answering service for the Rape Crisis Center and the Family Safety Center. As with many of these, the new hotline for seniors will carry the main crisis number, but volunteers will have specific training to respond to issues involving seniors, LaBonte said.

For more information or to volunteer for the Memphis Crisis Center, call (901) 649-8572, email volunteers@crisis7.org, or go to memphiscrisiscenter.org. To offer financial support, go to the website or send a donation to Memphis Crisis Center, P.O. Box 40068, Memphis, Tenn., 38174.