Inside Crisis Services, a 24/7 support center for people who need help

Jan 24, 2019

WBFO took a look inside Crisis Services in Buffalo through a special mental health Facebook Live conversation on Wednesday. Senior reporter Eileen Buckley learned about how the support agency answers 85,000 calls a year.

"The first thing that folks should know is that when they call, they are going to be listened to, they're going to be believed, and we are going to link you to whatever next support you need,” said Caitlin Powalski, director of Crisis Services' Advocate Department.

WBFO's Facebook live conversation at Crisis Services,
Credit WBFO News photo

The department handles sexual assault, domestic violence, family and elder abuse, serving survivors and loved ones. The agency also serves as the rape crisis center for the community.

“We often work with individuals or their loved on the worst day of their life and so our goal is to really be that space that believes that person and helps them get to whatever their next best step is,” Powalski explained.      

“We never really know when the line rings what’s going to come in,” said Jennifer Giambra, supervising counselor of the hotline.

Giambra said they take in a variety of calls each day.

Caitlin Powalski, director of Advocate Department at Crisis Services.
Credit WBFO News photo

“We get anything from housing issues to anxiety attacks to suicide to addiction to domestic violence [and] sexual assault,” Giambra listed.

“We had a mom calling looking for support for her adult son who was having some suicidal ideations. [He] was locking himself in a bathroom, was making a lot of statements, was not compliant with histheir medication. Mom was kind of at her wits end, didn’t know what to do with this individual, and called looking for support. We made a call over to our mobile team,” Giambra said.

“One of the misconceptions is that you call Crisis Services if you are in a serious crisis or if you are suicidal,” said Rachel Morrison, director of the 24-hour Crisis Counseling Program. 

Jennifer Giambra, supervising counselor of the hotline.
Credit WBFO News photo

Morrison says Crisis Services is a supportive agency.

“We help around relationship issues, if you’re seeking counseling. [There are] a variety of different reasons that folks call us and we assist every day. So a misconception is I have to call Crisis Services if I’m in a serious crisis or if I’m suicidal, and that’s just not true,” Morrison declared.

“What about the calls regarding children and teenagers?” Buckley asked. 

“We do have a kid’s hotline, one of our many hotlines, as well. We have youth calling in from a variety of issue, we have parents calling in, professionals, teachers calling in. We kind of just assess the situation at that moment. We will refer out to another agency for those specialized services for someone under age 18,” replied Morrison.

Rachel Morrison, director of the 24-hour Crisis Counseling Program.
Credit WBFO News photo

Crisis Services CEO Jessica Pirro said they also provide Mobile Outreach. Response teams are on standby 24/7.

“Somebody is threatening harm to themselves or there are suicidal thoughts or concerns that there’s harm to themselves or  others, that would then be taken over by our mobile outreach team and those staff are mental health professionals that go out in the community, meet the people face to face to do a mental health evaluation,” Pirro described.                    

Crisis Services works in collaboration with emergency response units, police and hospitals to make sure citizens get the immediately help and support they need.  You can call Crisis Services 24/7 at 716-834-3131.