- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Cuts to the hours of operation for the Center for Abused Persons’ crisis hotline are looming after the nonprofit suffered a 30 percent reduction in the grant it typically receives from the Charles County government.
CAP’s Executive Director Annette Gilbert-Jackson said the $100,000 the nonprofit normally receives was reduced to $70,000 for fiscal 2015. That money, Gilbert-Jackson said, solely funds the hotline and the paid personnel who staff it. The hotline, which previously was available 24/7, will have to reduce its hours of operation, and staff members will have to be fired, Gilbert-Jackson said.
Gilbert-Jackson called the hotline “vital to saving lives” during a Wednesday phone interview and said although it’s not very busy, it serves as the only Charles County-specific crisis hotline. Although it isn’t yet final, Gilbert-Jackson said one of the likely courses of action will be reducing the line to operating 12 hours a day during the week and eight hours a day on weekends.
“This is devastating for the citizens of Charles County not to have an outlet to receive services 24 hours a day,” Gilbert-Jackson said. “We have to eliminate a vital service to the county. This funding is vital to us.”
The hotline serves victims of rape and domestic violence, as well as people contemplating suicide.
Theresa Hamilton, CAP’s clinical supervisor, echoed Gilbert-Jackson’s sentiments about the importance of having the hotline around. Hamilton recalled a situation some time ago when a young man who struggled with chronic mental illness called the hotline one night saying he was suicidal. His parents were present that night, Hamilton said, but having dealt with situations like this with him before weren’t overly convinced of its urgency. Hamilton said a hotline worker was able to speak with the family and get them to see the true gravity of the situation, thus potentially saving the young man’s life.
Hamilton said CAP’s hotline also is vital to the Lethality Assessment Program, a tool police use when they arrive on the scene of a domestic violence call. Officers talk to the people involved, Hamilton said. If they determine that the victim could be at risk of life-threatening violence, the officer will call the hotline and encourage the victim to speak to the workers there, something ultimately left to the victim’s discretion. Hamilton said the hotline also is used to allow CAP workers to meet with rape survivors at the hospital if they so choose.
“Several people ... struggle from one appointment to the next, and they contact the hotline at all hours, like when they can’t sleep at night. These things happen at all hours of the night,” Hamilton said.
In a press release, Gilbert-Jackson encouraged citizens to call the Charles County commissioners and ask for their reconsideration. She also asked that citizens consider donating to CAP to assist in the process.
Charles County Commissioner Ken Robinson (D) would not comment specifically on CAP losing a chunk of funding for the hotline, saying instead he supported the actions of the grant panel that decides what organizations receive awards from the county and in what amount.
“It’s very important for the commissioners to have a hands-off approach,” Robinson said. “We appoint a grants panel and respect their autonomy.”