Calling all volunteers

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By MARY MALONE

Staff writer

SANDPOINT — For the past year and a half, the National Alliance on Mental Illness Far North and North Idaho Crisis Services have worked together to provide an after hours hotline to those in crisis.

The hotline often serves as the first point of contact for individuals who are seeking help, support and information. As the hotline is now expanding to a 24-hour service, volunteer crisis phone responders are needed immediately.

"We are expanding because the need has been shown in the calls that we receive outside of our 'business' hours of 5 p.m. to 8 a.m.," said Catherine Perusse, NAMI board member and NICS clinical director, in an email to the Daily Bee.

The free service is staffed by licensed mental health professionals to help individuals in Bonner and Boundary counties. Although it is aimed at the two northern most Idaho counties, Perusse said nobody is turned away. 

Perusse said volunteers will need to commit to one, four-and-a-half hour shift per week. Volunteers do not need any "special" experience, but do need to be able to navigate a crisis call with lots of training and support, she said. There will be four days of specific training provided, the first of which are scheduled for Sept. 16 and 17. The training is free. 

"All you need is a desire to help people and the ability to pass a background check," Perusse said.

"This is a wonderful opportunity to help your community address the many needs in our area."

An individual crisis can include just about anything. In North Idaho, Perusse said, if someone runs out of firewood at the end of October, that is a crisis.

"Living here in Bonner County, we all know about some of those local resources that would not be found or available on a state or national hotline level," Perusse said.

Anyone suffering through a crisis should call 208-946-5595.

NAMI is a national organizations with affiliates across the country, such as the Far North affiliate. The local affiliate has been in existence since 2007. Perusse said it is a grassroots organization comprised of individuals who live with mental illness, their family or loved ones.

NAMI Far North also hosts a "Family to Family" course once a year, sometimes twice, Perusse said, that provides family education on mental illness, including presentations, discussions and interactive exercises.

To learn about volunteering, contact a representative at northidahocrisis@gmail.com. Online information: namifarnorth.org or northidahocrisis.org.

Mary Malone can be reached by email at mmalone@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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