Lawrence-based suicide prevention organization signs deal for new space; move will allow statewide hotline to grow
photo by: Contributed photo/Headquarters Inc.
A Lawrence nonprofit is undertaking a major expansion that it expects will cement its standing as the leading suicide prevention organization in the state.
Headquarters Counseling Center later this month will move from its longtime, but small, home in downtown Lawrence into a new space in eastern Lawrence. The center has signed a deal to occupy about 6,700 square feet of office space in the industrial park just south of 19th and Delaware streets. The new space will be about five times larger than its existing 1,200-square-foot space at 211 E. Eighth St.
The number of calls the center takes through its hotline, which serves all of Kansas, has increased by about 45 percent over the last three years, Allan Bunch, director of development and community engagement for Headquarters Inc., said.
“We need to increase our capacity to take calls, and space is a huge consideration in that,” Bunch said. “This will almost double the number of call stations we have.”
Bunch said the new location would have five call stations and the space could accommodate more in the future. Since the early 2000s, Headquarters has been part of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The Lawrence center is supposed to take every hotline call in Kansas, but there are many months that doesn’t happen, Bunch said. He said many months the Lawrence call center has a call answer rate of just under 90 percent, meaning that if a call isn’t answered it is transferred to an out-of-state center. Some months, though, the call answer rate has dipped to about 60 percent, Bunch said.
He said it was important that as many calls as possible be answered by the Lawrence center. He said if a fellow Kansan answered the line it increased the odds that the counselor could connect with the caller, which is an important part of preventing a suicide.
“It is more reassuring when you reach somebody who you know can understand your place, your home,” Bunch said. “That is really important when somebody is calling to save their lives. Having a comfort level with the person on the other end of the line is really important.”
Greater call capacity likely will require Headquarters to increase its number of trained volunteers who staff the lines. Currently, Headquarters has a pool of about 65 volunteers who keep the lines staffed at all times. The new facility — Headquarters is naming it the Kansas Suicide Prevention Resource Center — is expected to help attract more volunteers, Bunch said.
He said the call center area would be more comfortable for volunteers, providing additional space for them to decompress from the emotional work they do. The center also will allow Headquarters to train more volunteers. The building will have an area that can seat 70 people in a theater-style arrangement or about 40 people for a seminar. Currently, it is difficult for Headquarters to train more than 15 people at a time at its existing offices.
The new space also will give Headquarters the room to expand its paid staff. Headquarters currently has seven people on staff, which is up from three at the beginning of the year, Bunch said. Executive director Steve Devore, a nonprofit professional who previously worked for KU Endowment Association, joined the center in January.
“It has been an exciting time for Headquarters,” Bunch said. “It definitely gives me hope that we are getting a good footing.”
The move to the new location — its address is 2110 B Delaware St., which is in the same building as the child welfare nonprofit KVC Kansas — comes with additional rent and overhead expenses. But Bunch said a private family foundation has given Headquarters a grant that is designed to pay for the additional rent and overhead expenses for the next 10 years. Headquarters, at the request of the donor, is not releasing the name of the foundation or the grant amount, Bunch said.
The grant, though, was a major consideration in the move.
“This incredibly generous gift allows Headquarters to apply future dollars raised directly to our programs (rather) than to overhead,” Devore said in a release.
Headquarters, however, is launching a nearly $100,000 capital campaign to furnish the new space with additional phone lines, conference room equipment, furniture and other such items. People interested in donating can contact Headquarters through its fundraising website, KSPHQ.org.
Headquarters expects to begin operating at the new site by May 29, Bunch said.