Gov. Gordon asks lawmakers for money for suicide hotline call center

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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - Wyoming is currently the only state without a National Suicide Prevention Lifeline call center but that may change. Gov. Mark Gordon sent letters this week to the state legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee detailing his request for the 2021-22 state budget. It includes $400,000 to establish a state-based suicide hotline call center.

In the Kendrick Gallery on November 18, 2019, Governor Mark Gordon answered questions after he released his first budget as Governor.

“If someone calls this national suicide lifeline now from the State of Wyoming, they get someone from a completely different part of the country. They may get somebody in Tallahassee. They may get somebody in Vermont. They don't get anybody in Wyoming,” Central Wyoming Counseling Center CEO Kevin Hazucha told Wyoming News Now in Aug. 2019.

Hazucha’s not the only suicide prevention advocate who feels the current setup is inadequate.

“People that are working the hotline need to know what towns, what it’s like, how far apart the towns are. There’s farmer, there’s ranchers. We are not an urban society here in Wyoming,” said Jenny Hunter, founder of J.R.’s Hunt for Life, an independent organization, based in Casper, working to prevent suicide.

If lawmakers sign-off on Gordon’s request, Wyomingites calling the hotline would speak with someone in state.

Hazucha said this would mean they’d speak with trained individuals with knowledge of local resources. This can lead to a “warm hand-off” connecting someone contemplating suicide with local professional help.

“You have to know what providers are available during that time. You have to know the phone numbers. You have to know specifically what they do treat, what they don't treat,” Hunter said. “It could be an addiction problem, it could be an alcohol problem, it could be a depression problem.”

Hazucha said Central Wyoming Counseling Center could be a potential location for the call center.

The 2020 legislative budget session begins Feb. 10.