Reaching the Deaf Community During
Times of Crisis

“The Disaster Distress Helpline has opened the door for Deaf individuals to access emotional support before, during and after a disaster. This has never previously been available. It’s awesome!”

-Dr. Stephanie Logan

By capitalizing on new technologies and innovative partnerships, Vibrant makes it easier for underserved populations to get help and get well, creating healthier, more resilient communities.

Dr. Stephanie Logan, Ph.D., M.B.A.Executive Director, DeafLEAD

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I lost my hearing at the age of 23 after falling ill to spinal meningitis. At the time, I was pursuing an undergraduate degree in psychology. I took what was initially seen as a tragedy -- total hearing loss in both ears -- and turned it into a force for good. Today, I’m Missouri’s only Deaf psychologist and for more than two decades, I’ve been the executive director of DeafLEAD, a nonprofit organization providing crisis intervention and emotional health support for Deaf, hard of hearing, late-deafened and DeafBlind individuals who have been victims of  crime. Getting access to emotional health support is challenging for the Deaf community.  Most health care professionals are not Deaf or hard of hearing and do not have interpreters on staff. It can also be difficult to find a clinician who truly understands the unique challenges of being Deaf. Deaf and hard of hearing people may also be especially at risk for disaster-related distress. Barriers to accessibility for mental healthcare, emergency preparedness, and disaster relief services are just a few distress risk factors that Deaf and hard of hearing people face throughout the disaster cycle. This is why our partnership with Vibrant and the Disaster Distress Helpline (DDH) to create a videophone crisis line is so important.

For years, there have been virtually no national crisis hotlines providing video, text and chat services to Deaf and hard of hearing people. DeafLEAD has provided this kind of support to the state of Missouri for years, but we knew that the need was much greater. Partnering with the DDH, which Vibrant administers, brings these mental health resources to people across the country. DeafLEAD merged its unique knowledge of the Deaf community with Vibrant’s and the DDH’s years of experience to provide around-the-clock access to emotional health support for Deaf individuals who use American Sign Language (ASL) as their primary language.

Right now, if a Deaf individual calls the DDH, a trained Deaf crisis worker fluent in ASL will be on the call from beginning to end, helping that person process and convey their emotional distress. These crisis workers receive more than 100 hours of exceptional crisis emotional response training from Vibrant experts at the DDH and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, along with DeafLEAD. They serve the Deaf community in their darkest hour; they are my heroes.

Together with Vibrant and the DDH, I know that we will continue to expand access to emotional health care for Deaf people and save lives.

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Delivering Immediate Support,
Anytime &Anywhere

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When the pandemic began, NYC Well, New York City's flagship go-to-resource for confidential mental health support, crisis intervention, and connection to services, had just five days to shift more than 100 crisis counselors to remote work, all while continuing to provide this lifesaving service. Katherine Polanco, Operations Manager for NYC Well, tells us how she and the counselors adapted to meet the needs of her staff, and the people they serve, practically overnight.

March 2020 was the beginning of the pandemic and New York City was at the epicenter of the global crisis. There was so much fear on the streets, in homes and across offices. No one knew what was coming and what impact it would have on all our lives. This was the backdrop NYC Well operated under in the early days of the pandemic. As New York City’s free, comprehensive crisis and support line administered by Vibrant, we knew we had to move our team to an all-virtual work environment, and it had to happen fast. We couldn’t afford to not deliver our essential services.

Over the course of just five head-spinning days in mid-March, our IT and HR departments worked around the clock preparing to transition our 100 hotline counselors into a remote workforce. This included procuring and setting up hundreds of additional headsets, computer monitors, and laptops. Our counselors remained committed to meeting the growing needs of New Yorkers, taking calls from the office until they received the necessary supplies to work remotely. And in a city where most people don’t have cars, they had to be creative to transport their devices home. I’ll never forget watching several of them pack a laptop into a backpack, a computer monitor in one hand, as they headed out the door to the subway. Their commitment ensured the hotline could respond to the spike in call volume caused by the threat of COVID-19.

As the pandemic continues, so too does the overwhelming need for NYC Well’s emotional health services. We have responded by tripling our staff, from 100 to more than 200 crisis counselors. Being able to meet the increased demand for our services has been gratifying. Our counselors are providing support to New Yorkers in emotional distress and helping people find the resources they need. This has never been more important than during this time. The counselors are the mental health heroes of this pandemic.

While this has been an intense and challenging chapter for everyone. I am proud of how our team adapted, without interrupting the support we provide to New Yorkers. We have demonstrated what we always say -- that NYC Well is here for you, no matter the time of day or the crisis you are facing. We show up for you and we give you our all.