A VA suicide hotline featured in an Oscar-winning documentary is now under fire from inspectors who found some crisis calls going unanswered – or straight to voicemail – staff training problems, and "confusing" contact information.
An inspector general's report
made public last week noted problems when calls were routed to backup centers after staff at the Department of Veterans Affairs suicide hotline center in Canandaigua, N.Y., were taking all the calls they could handle.
"We substantiated allegations that some calls routed to backup crisis centers were answered by voicemail, and callers did not always receive immediate assistance," the inspector general report stated.
In its news release last week, the VA said the Office of the Inspector General started the problem "in response to allegations involving unanswered phone calls or calls routed to a voicemail system, lack of immediate assistance to callers, ambulance timeliness, untrained staff, and confusing contact information."
The final report was posted by USA Today
The outlet noted the HBO 2014 film "Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1" won an Oscar last year for best documentary, short subject.
According to USA Today, the hotline, since its creation in 2007, has handled about 2 million calls, and saved lives in more than 53,000 cases.
Though the inspector general report didn't say how many of the New York center's hotline got sent to voicemail, it said the number of calls going to backup crisis centers increased dramatically in recent years, from 36,261 in 2013 to 76,887 in 2014.
About every sixth call goes to a backup center, the report said.
"Systems are being reviewed and action plans have been developed to resolve the issues and address the OIG (Officer of Inspector General) recommendations," Victoria Dillon, department spokesperson, said, USA Today reports, adding that all improvements will be in place by September.
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