For Omaha Public School Students, Help Is Just a Call Away at the Safe Schools Hotline
When it comes to keeping kids safe, there's no such thing as having too many helpful resources.
That's why Omaha Public Schools (OPS) partnered with the Boys Town National Hotline® last year to launch the district's Safe Schools Hotline. This service is available 24/7, year-round, and enables callers to speak anonymously with Boys Town Crisis Counselors about a variety of concerns, including bullying, depression, suicidal or self-harm thoughts, substance abuse, relationship issues and violence.
The Safe Schools Hotline, which originally started in August 2013, currently serves the Omaha, Millard, Bellevue, Ralston, Plattsmouth and Brownell-Talbot school districts.
The Hotline gives 52,000 OPS students in 82 schools the opportunity to reach out for help and advice. The phone number for the OPS Safe Schools Hotline is 531-299-SAFE.
Nancy Bond, Supervisor of Omaha Public Schools Counseling, recently shared how the Safe School Hotline is having a tremendous positive impact on OPS students, families and staff.
What's it been like working with the Hotline?
I couldn't be more pleased with the communication and collaboration that have occurred between Hotline and OPS staff. From the administrative team to the counselors taking calls, it has been a positive, helpful, collaborative spirit that each and every individual has brought to this effort. All involved have one goal in mind… to support those in need who are reaching out for help. Not only have we established a beautiful process, but the Hotline leadership even worked with additional community partners to secure funding for posters and cards to market and publicize our Hotline information!
What value has the Hotline brought to OPS?
OPS school counselors, social workers and psychologists do an excellent job of providing supportive services and responding to our students and families. But we aren't there for them 24/7, all year. The partnership with the Hotline has truly provided year-round, round-the-clock support to students and families who need it. There is great peace of mind in providing the Hotline number to our students, families and staff to ensure they have a knowledgeable, caring person to call when an OPS staff member may not be available to them.
Are there any specific stories about Hotline calls that have stuck with you?
As life-saving conversations happen and are submitted to us via the communication system we have with Hotline staff, I am continually relieved that this partnership exists. From calls that describe abuse and are forwarded to the CPS Hotline, to students calling about friends who are texting suicidal thoughts to them in the moment, or calls alerting us of a potential safety concern, we are so grateful that the Safe Schools Hotline exists for our students and their families.
I think each and every call is critical, but of course, the calls that involve active rescues involving in-progress suicide attempts stay with you. Calls to parents that inform them of their son's or daughter's suicidal thoughts are so important as well. Parents often don't realize their son or daughter is experiencing emotional pain, but when Hotline and school staff bring this to their attention and support them in getting the help they need for their child, it is priceless.
Parents have directly spoken the words, "You've saved my child's life." The rewards for this work don't get any better than that.
What are your hopes for the future of the Hotline and do you have any suggestions for improvements?
I do hope one day that we might streamline our process related to sharing student/parent information with Hotline staff to make it more time-sensitive and efficient. That would be an area of growth that could be explored as school safety conversations in Douglas County continue. This would also eliminate the need for school district staff to be on call 24/7 to support accessing that information for Hotline staff.
What would you say to someone who is considering making a donation in support of the Hotline?
I can't speak strongly enough about how worthwhile the Hotline efforts are and will continue to be. For a community to have the level of expertise that exists, one phone call away, is incredible!