Crisis hotline opens for Oregon farmers, ranchers, loggers and hunters – Oregon Capital Chronicle

Crisis hotline opens for Oregon farmers, ranchers, loggers and hunters – Oregon Capital Chronicle

If you or someone you know who works in the agriculture, forestry or fishing industry is experiencing difficulties, call or text 833-897-2474 for assistance.

When Oregon farmers, farmworkers or ranchers are overwhelmed by an emotional crisis or simply need someone to talk to, they now have counselors available.

A new hotline, Farm Helpline, launched in Oregon in September. It is designed to support those working in the agriculture, forestry or fishing industry through a phone and text service that operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The helpline is free and features trained counselors with experience in those industries who can answer phone calls in 160 languages, with English, Spanish and Vietnamese language specialists available to respond via text.

Its launch represents a dream come true for Allison Myers, who leads the Family and Community Health Program at the Oregon State University Extension Service and has campaigned for months to establish the line in Oregon.

“I’m honored to be a part of it,” Myers said. “It was a great team effort.”

Along with Myers, the line has the support of nearly 30 agricultural and health care organizations, Todd Nash, president of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, and Sen. Bill Hansel, R-Athens. Hansel defended the bill approved by the Legislature in the final days of this year’s session that allocated $300,000 to the line. That money went to the Oregon State University Foundation, which established a helpline endowment that is expected to generate $12,000 in benefits annually. This is not enough to pay for operations, which cost about $70,000 annually.

The country was able to take off the service — which also operates in Connecticut, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Wyoming — thanks to donations totaling nearly $70,000 from Coordinated Care of Eastern Oregon, which serves rural Medicaid beneficiaries in eastern Oregon, and the Roundhouse Foundation, a charitable organization based in In Oregon. Sisters.

To keep the line going in perpetuity, the endowment would need to increase to about $1.75 million, Myers said.

“Obviously we still have more fundraising to do,” Myers said.

To begin with, it works to inform people in different communities and rural areas about the service.

“Our goal is to spread the word,” she said. “Our next steps include preparing and disseminating marketing materials for the line, through statewide Extension offices and also through partners.”

Experts say that this line is urgently needed. Although the 988 Crisis Line provides a similar service, the Agristress Line specializes in meeting the needs of farmers, ranchers, loggers and fishermen. They often work in social and geographic isolation and in areas with limited access to health care services. These professions also have to contend with extreme weather conditions, such as flash floods or droughts, and face volatile commodity prices.

They come from a culture of self-sufficiency, which means they may be reluctant to tell someone they need help. This stoicism can have serious consequences: they have the highest suicide rate of all professions in Oregon. More than 70 people committed suicide between 2016 and 2020, a rate of 104 people per 100,000. This compares to 21 per 100,000 on average in Oregon in 2020.

The service says calls are answered within 30 seconds, and all callers are screened for suicidal tendencies, with intervention for those in immediate danger. Relevant resources are offered to others, and everyone receives a call within 24 hours. Counselors are trained in mental health issues related to agriculture and other professions, including productivity and financial issues, market fluctuations and family dynamics.

It is unclear whether the line is used often or has influence. The service is confidential about its use and has not published any data about the use of the font.

“We are carefully evaluating the service and will share the results when we get them,” Myers said.

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