Tempe-based Solari approaches mental health with kindness, compassion

How the nonprofit is providing support and resources for people suffering from a crisis

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You are not alone. Those four words can have a powerful and profound impact on someone experiencing a mental health crisis. Did you know that hundreds of trained professionals are standing by 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to not only to share those encouraging four words, but to also listen, provide resources, and offer support? If you’re amid a crisis of any kind, don’t hesitate to call 988, the national suicide and crisis lifeline, staffed by Solari Crisis & Human Services, because help is available.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month This month, organizations around the country are teaming up to raise awareness around mental health. More conversations are necessary to continue to educate the public and advocate for policies that support those with mental illnesses and their loved ones. Research shows that a staggering 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness each year, but therapy, medication, and self-care can make a difference. The National Alliance on Mental Illness is utilizing the month of May to help people identify the signs and symptoms of mental illness, explain the different mental health conditions, and offer treatment and support.

Local crisis response network Here in Arizona, Solari is trying to eliminate the stigma associated with mental health and encourage those in need of mental health support to reach out. And the need is evident. The organization received more than 38,000 calls statewide just in the last 30 days from individuals experiencing a mental health crisis including self-harm or suicide ideation, anxiety, substance abuse, depression, and/or domestic violence.

“We always have someone standing by to answer calls,” said Laboraex Abeita, manager of marketing and communications at Solari. “All calls are free, and individuals can remain completely anonymous.” In addition to the hotline, people can text 4HOPE or access the crisis chat function on Solari’s website. “It’s so important for people to know that they don’t have to suffer alone, and help is available,” Abeita added. Not only does Solari facilitate calls, texts and chats, they also operate a mobile crisis team which can be dispatched if someone requires urgent intervention. “Sometimes an individual needs to talk to someone in person or would like to be transported to a safe place,” Abeita said. “We have the resources available.”

Abeita said that Solari has seen an increase in the mobile team dispatch volume. Their public crisis dashboard indicates there have been between 4,000 and 5,000 calls for the mobile team to be dispatched during the last six months. Partnering with First Responders and the City of Tempe In 2022, Solari launched a partnership with police departments across the state, including Tempe Police Department to train officers and 911 operators how to identify and respond to a mental health crisis.

“Our partnership is critical to providing evolving needs and services to our community,” said Sergeant Hector Encinas, Tempe Police Department. “We have a collaborative effort.” The two organizations work together to determine how to best handle a crisis. “We have staff who are physically onsite to advise and educate 911 operators when a potential mental health crisis call comes in,” said Matthew Moody, director, contact center operations and clinical services for Solari. “We are working towards a cultural shift in 911 call centers to help law enforcement determine alternatives to resolving a mental health crisis.” By directing mental health calls made to 911 to Solari also frees up police resources who could then be dispatched to another emergency. “From January through March of this year, Tempe Police Department has had 68,881 calls for service and 266 of have been diverted to Solari,” Encinas added.

The City of Tempe has implemented various programs in collaboration with both Tempe Police and Tempe Fire Medical Rescue including CARE 7, a crisis response service that provides support, assistance, and referral throughout healing, and recovery. A dedicated YouTube channel features stress management techniques, and certified youth specialists visit local schools to provide mental health outreach. “We have trained 100% of sworn officers on de-escalation techniques,” Encinas explained. “We have a full-time wellness coordinator who has a direct impact on improving the way law enforcement interacts with people facing mental health and addiction challenges. Having these resources also provides increased mental health and substance abuse literacy, empathy, and compassion.”

Additional Community Support Two other ways Solari is providing resources to Arizona residents is through its community support network to help people in need of food, housing, and mental health resources, and with 2-1-1 Arizona, an information and referral services program staffed with live operators who can connect callers to resources for rental and utility assistance, health care, heat relief, and transportation. Most Solari employees have personal mental health experience and possess a great deal of empathy and grace. “Our team is standing by to address the needs of our communities and offer hope,” Abeita said. “You are not alone.” Learn more about Solari and the services available at https://solari-inc.org/.



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