Present and Future

Crisis Center Relocates to the UT Health Science Center

Crisis Center Relocates to the UT Health Science Center

Memphis, Tenn. (October 23, 2009) The Crisis Center, a 24-hour telephone hotline for those in distress, has relocated to space on the campus of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC). Located in the heart of the Memphis Medical Center near downtown, UTHSC is providing the space to the non-profit organization at no charge.

With the support of the UT Health Science Center, the volunteers of the Richard G. Farmer & Allen O. Battle Crisis Center have a new home from which to continue to provide vital services to the community's vulnerable members. Richard G. Farmer, MD, and Allen O. Battle, PhD, founded the Crisis Center in 1970 as a 24-hour emotional lifeline for those in distress.

Dr. Farmer, a UTHSC alumnus, is a psychiatrist who specializes in treatment for anxiety, major depression and opioid addiction. Dr. Battle has taught and practiced psychology at UTHSC for more than 53 years. In September, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award as a Health Care Hero for his decades-long impact in education and crisis intervention.

At the Crisis Center, trained volunteers, using a combination of empathic listening, risk assessment, and crisis intervention, provide callers with immediate assistance and link them with the long-term resources they need to cope and overcome. The program is free, safe, and confidential.

Roughly 150 Crisis Center volunteers staff its hotline and receive around 20,000 calls each year. They respond to such issues as mental illness, addiction, domestic violence, sexual assault, grief, and suicide.

"We know that stigma, fear and shame are often barriers to accessing mental health or social services," said Mike LaBonte, executive director for the program. "As a confidential telephone program, the Crisis Center often serves as a point of entry for those who might not otherwise access the help they need."

The Crisis Center is uniquely positioned to provide immediate emotional support to those in crisis and encourage treatment and compliance among the chronically mentally ill and those struggling with addiction and in recovery. This role is critical and at times life-saving. "Approximately 5 percent of clients have some level of suicidal ideation when they call the Crisis Center," LaBonte explained. The Crisis Center is part of the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA) National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. SAMHSA is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"Our volunteers are simply overwhelmed by this generous donation of space by the Health Science Center," LaBonte continued. "The university has not only donated a space for the call center but a space for our training facility as well. The Allen O. Battle Training Center will allow us to continue to have a place to train both Crisis Center volunteers and community members. Without the support and commitment of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center none of this would be possible."

He noted that community involvement is a big component of the work of the Crisis Center. "As a volunteer-powered agency, we rely on our volunteers to provide the service. They take that training and experience back out into the community and become an ongoing source of strength. It's a way the community can collaborate in its own support system," LaBonte added.

If you need help call (901) CRISIS-7, or toll free 1-800-273-TALK. If you would like to help by volunteering, please call (901) 871-0343.