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KSPHQ exemplifies spirit of Pioneer Award

In its 53-year history, Kansas Suicide Prevention HQ has gone through many changes.

But its mission has not.

KSPHQ, as it has been called since May 2020, exists as it did in 1969 when it was started as Headquarters Counseling Center, to provide support and crisis services for the Douglas County community.

Last year was a big one for KSPHQ with the advent of the nationwide 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. KSPHQ is part of the more than 200 crisis centers that provide 24/7 service via the tollfree 988 Lifeline and one of four in Kansas.

In addition, 2022 saw the launch of a new Mobile Response Team, operated in conjunction with the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center and with support from Douglas County. The team began responding to calls last September.

KSPHQ will receive the Bert Nash Center’s Pioneer Award at the Center’s 37th annual Pioneer Celebration on April 20 at Venue 1235.

The award recognizes individuals and organizations that carry on the legacy and spirit of the community leaders who founded the Bert Nash Health Clinic in 1950.

“The Pioneer Celebration really resonates with me because when I look back at our history, we were truly pioneers 53 years ago,” said Steve Devore, KSPHQ President and CEO. “Early on, we were pioneers in advancing crisis intervention and suicide prevention.”

“This is an honor,” said Monica Kurz, KSPHQ’s VP Policy & Prevention. “I’ve been personally and professionally moved by the selection for the award. This has been an exciting time to work in crisis services and mental health. I feel very excited about what we are able to do for the residents of Douglas County.”

When KSPHQ moved out of a 1,200-square-foot space near Downtown Lawrence into a new 18,000-square-foot building in 2019 it had five full-time employees. It now has 57 paid staff, including part-time call staff, as well as 65 active volunteers who answer calls.

“Headquarters started as a grassroots organizing effort,” said Jared Auten, KSPHQ Crisis Line Director and a former Bert Nash Center staff member. “Volunteerism was the way it sustained itself. The need to adapt to the community’s needs has always been part of Headquarter’s history.”

Besides 988, people can call KSPHQ directly with the (785) 841-2345 local crisis line number it has had since it opened in December 1969. Depending on the month, between 30 and 50 percent of KSPHQ’s call volume will come from the local number.

Next fall, KSPHQ is planning to offer a separate peer-led number for under 18 callers answered by teens that will be available by phone, and eventually text, and chat. This would be a first in Kansas.

“The hope is that the line will be up and running by the time school starts in the fall,” said Kristin Vernon, KSPHQ’s VP Clinical Programs. “There will be teenagers here from 4 to 10 p.m. Monday through Sunday. If calls come in outside those hours, an adult will answer.”

From Headquarters beginning in 1969 to 988, mobile response and the new Treatment and Recovery Center, Douglas County has been a model for a crisis services system for other communities.

“We didn’t do this alone,” said Kurz, KSPHQ’s VP Policy & Prevention. “I think about all of the organizations and the agencies and the buy-in and the trust they’ve been willing to have. These are things that are not even a twinkle in the eye of other communities in Kansas.

“There are a lot of great organizations that are willing and passionate and dedicated to help the citizens of Douglas County,” said Devore, KSPHQ President and CEO. “Bert Nash and KSPHQ are reflective of that.”


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