July 7th, 2022
We are happy to announce that as of July 7th, those calling the national suicide prevention hotline from a 307 area code will be connected to an agent in Wyoming 24/7! The Wyoming LifeLine (WYLL) began as a labor of love two years ago, initially covering four counties 25 hours a week. In the last two years, we’ve slowly expanded to cover the entire state, and we are now providing coverage 98 hours a week – 14 hours each day from 2am until 4pm. Our sister organization, Central Wyoming Counseling Center, provides coverage the other 10 hours a day. Both centers stepped up last week to take on an additional two hours per day to fill the remaining four-hour gap of time that had remained uncovered.
In the beginning, this was mostly a passion project and dream of four people -- THG’s Jeff Henne and Ralph Nieder-Westermann, Karen Sylvester, who first approached Jeff and Ralph over 10 years ago about the idea when she was the prevention coordinator for Big Horn County, and Barbara Anne Green, the chair of the Basin Chamber of Commerce. "Karen was the main driver of this in the early years,” said THG’s Jeff Henne. "It was her dream, and through her perseverance and determination it became our dream as well.”
The need is great in WY – the state regularly trends #1 in the U.S. for per capita suicides, and as of two years ago, WY was the only state which didn’t have an in-state call center. THG has provided seed money and in-kind donations of staff time over the past two years, but over the course of the last two years we have received substantial financial support from the Episcopal Church Foundation, the Green River Valley Hospital Foundation, and many individual donors in Wyoming and throughout the U.S.
With the volume of incoming calls continuing to surge, 24/7 service through the two hotlines could not have come at a better time. “We expect call volumes to more than double after the new three-digit phone number, 988, goes into effect on July 16th, says Ralph Nieder-Westermann, Executive Director at Wyoming LifeLine.
"The Wyoming LifeLine is a testament to a vision and commitment to the people of Wyoming and an undying belief that we could make a difference,” says Karen Sylvester, founding board member and Director of Training at Wyoming LifeLine. "It has been quite a journey and we celebrate this second anniversary for what has been accomplished and acknowledge all that we have left to do. 988 has been long awaited and we will continue our work to incorporate the changes and strive to serve the folks of Wyoming with dignity and kindness any way that we can.”
As WYLL has continued to widen our footprint in Wyoming, funding from the state has still been pending. This funding will be crucial so that we are able to recruit enough staff to meet the anticipated increase in demand. In addition to staffing, funding will allow us to expand our resources to include texting, instant messaging, and increasing opportunities for volunteers. At this point, the Wyoming Legislature has authorized $2.1 million to be allocated to the two crisis centers over the next two years, and we are hopeful that we will receive some of these funds.
Wyoming LifeLine helps provide 24/7 coverage in WY