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Updated Sep 2, 2014 - 4:28 pm

Mesa Fire creates hotline to report behavioral health issues

(Mesa Fire Dept. Photo)

MESA, Ariz. -- Mesa residents concerned about a friend or loved one who may have behavioral health issues have a new place to turn.

The Mesa Fire and Medical Department has set up a 24-hour hotline for people to call and talk about their concerns.

The Prevention Action Line is a cooperative effort with the Crisis Response Network and Crisis Preparation and Recovery. The goal is to provide a comprehensive response to support the caller's need to help someone who has behavioral health issues. Operators are trained to answer callers' questions, refer them to an agency or arrange a one-on-one meeting with counselors. Police and fire crews can be sent to a residence if it appears that the situation is an emergency.

Last year, the Mesa Fire and Medical Department responded to over 5,000 calls involving a behavioral health issue, which was about 10 percent of all calls to 911.

"We felt like there were probably people that need help, that need community resources but don't know where to go," said Mesa Fire Capt. Kim Hackbarth. "So that's what the Prevention Action Line was designed and set up for."

Hackbarth said that many times friends and family members may be able to help their loved ones before it gets to the point where that person does something violent.

"The family and the closest friends are the ones that have the first insight to seeing some behavior that seems a little off with their loved one," she said.

There may be several signs that someone may have an issue that could develop into a serious problem. They could have a drastic change in their mood or behavior, such as talking about death. There could also be dramatic sleep and appetite changes or deterioration in their personal hygiene, just to name a few.

The hotline has been operating since Aug. 1. Travis Anderson, of the Crisis Response Network, is one person who has been manning the lines and remembers one particular call he received.

"A woman was concerned with her adult son who had some issues and needed a little guidance, and we were able to help out with that," Anderson said.

He doesn't know whether the man's problem could have resulted in a shooting situation like at Columbine High School or the theater shooting in Colorado but he believes the son talked about that.

"There was maybe some verbal abuse, but was there actual aggression? I don't know," he said.

To reach the Prevention Action Hotline, call 480-644-5457.

About the Author

Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I live in north Phoenix with my wife Rene' and my son Devin.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: My Dad took me to see Jimmy Dean at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in the 1960's. It was before the Coliseum was built. The only thing I remember is Jimmy Dean singing his big hit "Big Bad John."

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Shiloh Community Church in Phoenix. Devin is a high school student at Scottsdale Christian Academy. He plays on the baseball, football, and basketball teams and sings in the choir. Obviously, we keep busy trying to go to all his events! We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and long road trips. We like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.


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