So what is it like to work every day with people who are experiencing a crisis? Jeannette Lotzer and Lakita Richardson are both crisis workers at Coleman. They love it. In fact, Jeannette loves it so much she kept telling me she could do this until she was 70.
Jeannette had worked as a case manager for the past 13 years and was very excited when she was offered the chance to become a crisis worker both at the We Care Regional Crisis Center and also in emergency rooms at hospitals in Lima, Bluffton, St. Mary’s, and Kenton. “You just feel so good knowing you’ve helped someone get better,” she said.
Lakita started out in crisis work being hired to help cover the new national texting crisis line. Here people can use a text message if they feel more comfortable texting than talking when they are in a crisis. She’s texted people all across the country. Coleman was among the first in the nation to become part of this national effort to reach people in crisis through texting. “People text back telling me that I’ve been such a huge help. That just feels great,” she said.
Both Jeannette and Lakita also work on the Hope Line and even though most of their calls come from Allen, Auglaize and Hardin counties they also often talk to people in Putnam and Hancock counties where the crisis line is focused on those in imminent danger. Jeannette and Lakita also talk to people who need some support, or parents who have questions. They even make call outs to patients who might need to be reminded to take their medication. They have talked to people in New York, Kentucky, Florida, and California who find their way to the Hope Line. There have been many instances where they have alerted police across the country of someone in danger only later to learn that the individual was taken to a hospital and was safe. “That is so rewarding, “Lakita said, “and that is why I just love this work.”
Lakita’s most challenging moment was when a young man walked into the Crisis Center and began to fall apart right in front of her. “He was just like cases we studied in school,” she said. But she had the backup of the nurses and staff at the Crisis Center where he was admitted immediately.
“It’s an adrenaline rush. No day is ever the same. You never know who is going to walk through the door,” Jeannette said. Lakita added, “We’ve helped so many people in crisis.” Sometimes things don’t work out right away for an individual who ends up going through a few crises. They both said that when they started they thought they could just walk into a situation and fix it. But it doesn’t always work out the way they expected. They have to remind themselves that they didn’t fail in their work – it just takes some people longer to get well.
There are regular callers to the Hope Line, people who just need to feel connected. Both women said they enjoy talking to these folks, trying to keep them engaged. “We have helped so many people not to go into crisis because of our listening skills.”
Jeannette particularly loves working with young adults. One young man she remembers well was at a hospital emergency room and told her that he had been struggling with his medication for a long time. She was the first person he ever told about this. She just loved his openness but encouraged him to talk more to his parents about what he was experiencing. She said he just seemed so relieved to get that off his chest.
Lakita said that Pam Bricker at Coleman has been a tremendous influence and support for her in her work. “She showed me how to treat people who had a severe mental illness with respect.” Jeannette credits her mother as being a real inspiration for her and who encouraged and supported her going back to school when she turned 39.
Lakita said, “You just never know how much difference you make in a person’s life.” Jeannette said, “We become like glasses for them to help them see.”