A suicide hotline that was the subject of a 2015 HBO documentary got a lot of attention when the film won an Oscar for best documentary short. A new report shows that the same hotline was letting calls go to voicemail, and no one returned the phone calls.
A Federal report revealed that the high-profile Veterans Crisis Line routed at least 23 phone calls from active duty members to voicemail in 2014. Even worse, after pouring out their hearts in a moment of crisis to a recording, the veterans were never called back and never received assistance.
At least, 23 is the only known number; the actual number is unclear. Even more damaging, the group’s back-up crisis center taking calls were not trained mental health workers.
The Department of Veterans Affairs released the report on Friday. The report shows that the staff at the suicide hotline center in Canandaigua, New York has been struggling under the growing volume of phone calls. In just one year, the backup team phone call volume increased by 112 percent.
“We substantiated allegations that some calls routed to backup crisis centers were answered by voicemail, and callers did not always receive immediate assistance,” said the VA Inspector General report.
“Systems are being reviewed and action plans have been developed to resolve the issues and address the OIG (Officer of Inspector General) recommendations,” a department spokesperson responded to the report. They hope to have a new system in place by September.
Remember when someone calling suicide prevention and being put on hold was just a Rodney Dangerfield joke? Those were the days.