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Oregon youth mental health crisis line gets $432K federal boost

The federal money will go toward Oregon's Lines for Life YouthLine, with the goal of reducing mental health crises and suicide.

OREGON, USA — Lines for Life in Oregon will receive $432,000 in extra federal funding to help reduce the risk of youth mental health crisis and suicide.

"I have never seen the mental health challenge greater," Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden said at the Portland announcement Saturday.

Due to the pandemic, Wyden said that youth face greater mental health stressors than ever before.

"Long stretches of isolation, upending of school, risks to physical health," Wyden said. "We have heard that call loud and clear." 

The federal money will go toward Oregon's YouthLine, which is operated in part by 170 adolescent volunteers.

"Peer-to-peer, youth-to-youth service," described Dwight Holton, Lines for Life CEO. "Young people reach young people better."

Volunteers take calls and text messages from people experiencing mental health crises, referring them to treatment and support.

"I know that we can do so much good," said one youth volunteer Saturday. "[Callers] may be in a lot of pain, but they are also incredibly resilient, and having a space where they can take their life in their own hands and reach out for help is so incredibly important."

RELATED: Local prevention agencies address rising suicide rates among Black children

The challenge for Oregon is great.

Mental Health America ranks states based on rates of mental health problems and access to care. Oregon consistently rates at the bottom of most lists.

The $432,000 in federal funding coming to Lines for Life in Oregon aims to change that trajectory. Wyden's office said this is the breakdown of that funding:

  1. Development and Training - $135,000
    • YouthLine will provide 9 Training sessions over 1 Year – 4 in Central Oregon and 5 in Portland (cost/training $15,000, 15 people per training).
  1. East Portland Mobile Satellite Team - $122,950
    • YouthLine will create a satellite site that services marginalized and vulnerable Black and Brown populations and offers workforce development to young adults in East Portland.
  1. Central Oregon Call Center - $100,000
    • YouthLine will continue the expansion of the program and call center in Central Oregon, with a focus on suicide prevention, education in schools, volunteer development/training, and recruitment in rural communities.
  1. Mini-Grants for Schools for Youth Suicide Prevention - $50,000
    • YouthLine will work directly with school districts, education service districts, and individual schools throughout Oregon to provide technical assistance, funding and consultation on suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention policies.
  1. Work Study Program - $25,000
    • YouthLine will provide work studies ($1,200/volunteer) for Black and Brown marginalized youth in East Portland and Indigenous youth on Warm Springs Reservation to help eliminate barriers youth experience with volunteerism.

Wyden said the Senate is working to secure ongoing funding and to expand more services nationwide. 

In July, a nationwide 988 hotline will activate, connecting callers directly to crisis lines. That service is already active throughout much of Oregon.

"It is long past time to have a designated line like this," Wyden said.

RELATED: Gender-affirming care reduced depression in 60% of teens in University of Washington study

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