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Updated Sep 2, 2014 - 4:28 pm

Mesa Fire creates hotline to report behavioral health issues

MESA, Ariz. — Mesa residents concerned about a friend or loved one who may have behavioral health issues have a new place to turn.

The Mesa Fire and Medical Department has set up a 24-hour hotline for people to call and talk about their concerns.

The Prevention Action Line is a cooperative effort with the Crisis Response Network and Crisis Preparation and Recovery. The goal is to provide a comprehensive response to support the caller’s need to help someone who has behavioral health issues. Operators are trained to answer callers’ questions, refer them to an agency or arrange a one-on-one meeting with counselors. Police and fire crews can be sent to a residence if it appears that the situation is an emergency.

Last year, the Mesa Fire and Medical Department responded to over 5,000 calls involving a behavioral health issue, which was about 10 percent of all calls to 911.

“We felt like there were probably people that need help, that need community resources but don’t know where to go,” said Mesa Fire Capt. Kim Hackbarth. “So that’s what the Prevention Action Line was designed and set up for.”

Hackbarth said that many times friends and family members may be able to help their loved ones before it gets to the point where that person does something violent.

“The family and the closest friends are the ones that have the first insight to seeing some behavior that seems a little off with their loved one,” she said.

There may be several signs that someone may have an issue that could develop into a serious problem. They could have a drastic change in their mood or behavior, such as talking about death. There could also be dramatic sleep and appetite changes or deterioration in their personal hygiene, just to name a few.

The hotline has been operating since Aug. 1. Travis Anderson, of the Crisis Response Network, is one person who has been manning the lines and remembers one particular call he received.

“A woman was concerned with her adult son who had some issues and needed a little guidance, and we were able to help out with that,” Anderson said.

He doesn’t know whether the man’s problem could have resulted in a shooting situation like at Columbine High School or the theater shooting in Colorado but he believes the son talked about that.

“There was maybe some verbal abuse, but was there actual aggression? I don’t know,” he said.

To reach the Prevention Action Hotline, call 480-644-5457.

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