Phone line provides access to resources for veterans

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BRAD STAGER Veterans Peer Counselor Jamie McPherson staffs the Florida Veterans Support Line at the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay. Veterans and their family members who call 1-844-MYFLVET (693-5838) can get information about resources they may find useful. The crisis center is currently recruiting volunteer peer counselors who are military veterans.

Clara Reynolds, president and CEO of the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, noticed a trend in the calls the center’s 2-1-1 contact phone line was receiving.

“About two and a half years ago, we were experiencing a significant call volume from vets,” she said. “Many times those vets would ask, ‘Are you a vet? Do you know what I’m going through?’”

Thanks to a dedicated phone service at the crisis center, when veterans now ask those questions, the response will come from a peer counselor who also has served in the military.

Each day, around the clock, veterans and members of their families in a five-county area who dial 1-844-MYFLVET (693-5838) can get connected with the Florida Veterans Support Line, a service provided by The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay.

The program is available in Pasco, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk and Manatee counties.

What’s significant about this service is that Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., callers can talk with a veteran who speaks the same language and has transitioned from military duties to civilian life.

These peer counselors use not only their additional training, but also their military background and shared experiences as ways to turn a call for help into a possible solution with referrals to Veterans Administration or community-based resources.

“Being able to ask that second or third question to find out what’s going on, that can make the difference in keeping that conversation going,” Reynolds said.

The crisis center’s support line is a pilot program for using state money to enlist local resources in providing services to the state’s growing population of veterans.

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