DENVER -- As kids return to school, some of the normal stresses and anxieties of a new school year are likely being exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic. A new hotline, operated by the 17th Judicial District, aims to help connect struggling youth to resources.
District Attorney Brian Mason said the hotline came in response to a growing crisis in Adams and Broomfield counties.
“We had, I believe, seven suicide attempts in a 10-day period just in our jurisdiction. That's when I said, 'we've got to do something about this,'” Mason said.
The office is relying on existing diversion program counselors to answer calls. The lifeline is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and can immediately connect families to mental health and substance abuse treatment. Through a grant, much of that treatment may be provided at no cost.
“If somebody calls our line, we can send them directly to Life Recovery Center. If they call today, they could probably get an appointment this afternoon,” said Levon Hupfer, director of diversion for the District Attorney’s Office. Hupfer says most of the callers have been parents, grandparents and teachers, including a call from a parent with a 10-year-old child who was suicidal.
Mason said mental health and substance abuse issues heavily impact the criminal justice system, so it makes sense for a district attorney’s office to get involved in helping young people who are struggling.
“We certainly know that mental health struggles are up and crime rates are up, too. So, trying to deal with the mental health part of this crisis, in addition to the crime rate crisis, is one of my top priorities,” Mason said.
Another goal is to reduce the stigma about talking about mental health. The office hopes families will call if they see any signs that a child or teenager is struggling.
“When a child is showing signs of suicidal ideations, withdrawal — things that can lead to a horrific outcome — we want folks to call and get the help that they need,” Mason said.
The Lifeline number is (303) 835-LIFE (5433). It’s available Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.