Crisis Link Hotline Faces Funding Cutoff in Fairfax

The 24-hour-a-day Crisis Link hotline is due to lose all of its $135,000 annual funding from Fairfax County if the Fairfax Supervisors follow the proposal of the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board, the program’s director reported this week.

The hotline, which served 27,000 callers last year, is a vital component of the services provided by Crisis Link, a comprehensive suicide and crisis prevention organization that provides support and resources for life crises, trauma and suicide throughout the Washington, D.C. metro area.

Crisis Link organizers are mobilizing their supporters to contact Fairfax Supervisors to urge the funding be maintained. They are calling for a large turnout at the April 2 County Board meeting to make the case.

Calls to the hotline have soared in the past five years, up by 78.1% in Fairfax County, while the calls from youths are up by 227%. Suicide-related calls are up 50.5%, including 583 calls from Fairfax County residents.

In 2006, there were 90 suicide deaths in Fairfax County and Falls Church, up 32% since 2004. Suicides here outnumber homicides by five to one.

“The Fairfax youth suicide rate is second only to Arlington in Northern Virginia,” according to a Crisis Link memo. “Crisis Link’s hotlines are the safety value and last resort before tragedy strikes. What’s not on the nightly news are all the stories of desperate people successfully de-escalated by Crisis Link’s hotlines, untold stories that would literally fill volumes.”

Crisis Link has partnered with the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services board for 39 years, but the board was tasked by the County Executive to slash its budget by 4% this year, leading to the recommendation to cut off all its funding to the hotline.

By contrast to its proposed funding cut, Crisis Link estimates it saved Fairfax County taxpayers $1,078,550 in ambulance, police, 9-1-1, hospital and treatment costs by talking its callers out of suicide attempts.