May 8, 2009
This spring, the Rural Response Hotline marked its 25th year of service to Nebraskans.
The toll-free number is 1-800-464-0258.
The hotline provides support to Nebraska's farmers and ranchers and is sponsored by the Farm Crisis Response Council of Interchurch Ministries of Nebraska. Currently, Nebraska is the only state in which churches are responding ecumenically to the farm crisis through a hotline.
"In the early 1980s, legal and emotional stress reached a crisis stage for many Nebraska farm families as land values plummeted, debt piled up, and foreclosures reached a record high," says Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman. "That's when Interchurch Ministries of Nebraska saw the need and formed a coalition of member church denominations and organizations with a direct interest in confronting rural hardship. The hotline has helped people affected by various rural economic crises for 25 years now."
The Rural Response Hotline can be a lifeline for many individuals and families, according to Heineman. The hotline staff offers callers the help of attorneys, financial advisers, professional counselors, mediators, clergy, and others who have volunteered their expertise to the program.
As the number of calls increased over time, the need for mental health services became apparent. The Counseling, Outreach, and Mental Health Therapy Project was created through the Department of Health and Human Services' Division of Behavioral Health and Office of Rural Health. Funding comes from the federal Mental Health Block Grant program.
Callers can receive no-cost vouchers for confidential mental health services. More than 167 mental health professionals work with the Rural Response Hotline. Over 100 mental health providers across the state accept the vouchers as full payment for their services. In fiscal year 2008, 2,741 mental health vouchers were mailed out.
When a farmer, rancher, or rural resident calls the hotline, an experienced staff person answers and responds quickly. Some callers are just looking for someone to talk to about their family's issues. Others are interested in information about financial counseling, contract disputes, tax and estate issues or mental health counseling.
Callers can be referred to members of the clergy, attorneys, financial advisors, mental health counselors, or mediators, depending on their needs.
Partners include the Nebraska Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture, Nebraska Rural Health and Safety Coalition, UNL Extension, National Rural Mental Health Association, Farm Aid, Farm Crisis Response Council, farm organizations, and Interchurch Ministries of Nebraska.
Another useful tool that can help link individuals to valuable resources can be found at www.dhhs.ne.gov/networkofcare. This online directory allows access to vital information about diagnoses, insurance, pending legislation, advocacy, and the latest research about mental health and substance abuse issues.
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