New operators to take Sask. farm crisis line 24/7

Saskatchewan’s Farm Stress Line will shift next week to a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week model as responsibility for the service moves to a non-profit crisis intervention agency.

Mobile Crisis Services, which already provides social and health crisis and emergency intervention services in Regina on behalf of public agencies, will become the sole operator of the Farm Stress Line starting July 4.

The move to Mobile Crisis is expected to save the provincial government about $100,000 a year, but will also make "one-on-one service" available around the clock.

The province until now has operated the Farm Stress Line from Monday to Saturday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The stress line (1-800-667-4442) has been billed as a "peer-to-peer" toll-free telephone service, meaning farmers would be connected to "someone who knows what it’s like to live in today’s farming and ranching world."

However, until now, farmers who called the line outside those hours and did not want to leave a message on the Farm Stress Line’s voice mail would be automatically transferred to Mobile Crisis Services staff.

"Now there will be staff available to take calls at any time," the province said in a release Wednesday. "The existing number will remain the same… and farmers and ranchers will continue to receive the confidential counselling, support and referral services they may need."

Demand down

Calls to the Farm Stress Line have also been decreasing in recent years, the province said. The service in 2011 handled about 330 calls, or less than one caller per day.

"While the demand for these services has decreased, we still want farmers and ranchers to know they can continue to rely on these services when they need it," provincial Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart said in the release.

"The Farm Stress Line fits well into our existing services," Mobile Crisis executive director Glenda Jenkins said in the same release. "Our employees are trained and well equipped to provide the confidential counselling services farmers and ranchers may need."

Mobile Crisis Services is billed as one of the "most highly integrated and respected crisis services" in North America and a model for various services in Canada and the U.S.

Among its other work, it provides child protection and financial services on behalf of the provincial social services ministry, mainly in the 4:30 p.m. to 8 a.m. time slot on weekdays and 24 hours on weekends.

Mobile Crisis, operated entirely by paid staff under oversight of a volunteer board, also runs the province’s problem gambling hotline and handles after-hours crisis response and screening on behalf of the Regina Mental Health Clinic.

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