Lifeline losing 'its heart' with closures

Wairarapa Lifeline lifetime members Kevin and Val Ball and Tina Goodin with the 1987 Lifeline Wairarapa Certificate of ...
ILLYA MCLELLAN/FAIRFAX NZ

Wairarapa Lifeline lifetime members Kevin and Val Ball and Tina Goodin with the 1987 Lifeline Wairarapa Certificate of Incorporation

The closure of the Lifeline offices in Wairarapa   at the start of the month could seriously affect the ability for communities to respond to potential crisis situations, says chief executive Jo Denvir.  

Volunteers were specifically trained to deal with situations that many could not handle, Denvir said.

"Often in the aftermath of a suicide people say they knew something was wrong, but were not sure what to do. The skills we give Lifeline volunteers change this, and this knowledge is transferred into their day to day lives, which strengthens the community and its ability to respond to its own issues," she said.

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Former Wairarapa Lifeline manager Susan Hilliard said a lot of passionate people had worked for Lifeline in the region over the years.  

Part of the reason behind the closure in Masterton was that when the eight independent regional centres merged into a single incorporated society in 2014 the central office in Auckland took over the funding initiatives for the entire organisation.

"We were well supported locally by various organisations and had functioned autonomously for around 30 years, but after the merger we were told a specialist central group would handle fundraising and then suddenly we are closing our office," she said. "It's a great disappointment that the local offices have been let down by the central organisation." 

Wairarapa Lifeline founding member Kevin Ball said having helped set up the local branch in 1984 it was a real shame to see it go.

Most people who had worked for Lifeline over the years had a story about when they had saved someone.

"Some days we might take as few as five calls, but other days as high as 30, which doesn't sound a lot but if it's a life saved, how much is that worth?

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"We trained our own volunteers, hundreds of them over the years, and they are still out there now They moved into different fields but a lot of the time they went into roles where they were really giving something back, social work, mental health and other such things, they strengthened the community."

Lifeline went from being a volunteer set up to becoming a corporate entity, Ball said.

His wife and fellow founder Val Ball said it was all done systematically and that it seemed a cold process.

"They've taken the community out of Lifeline, and the community was its heart," she said. 

Lifeline was unsuccessful last year in its contract bid to manage the new National Telehealth Service being developed by the Ministry of Health. Since then Lifeline's cost-cutting has led to the closure of these regional offices.

Denvir wanted to assure New Zealand that Lifeline's 24 hour helpline still has enough funding to continue until June 31 2017.

The new National Telehealth Service is run by Homecare Medical. These are their national helpline numbers: 

  • Healthline: 0800 611 116
  • Quitline: 0800 778 778 
  • Alcohol drug helpline: 0800 787 797
  • Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 
  • Gambling helpline: 0800 654 655
  • Immunisation advice: 0800 466 863
  • Poisons centre: 0800 POISON (0800 764 766).

 

 

 - Stuff

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