EL CENTRO — Margaret Sauza, executive director of the Sure Helpline Crisis Center, spoke at the El Centro City Council meeting last week, seeking for an undetermined amount of financial help from the city.
“I come before you. Do not forget Sure Helpline Crisis Center. Our work is non-stop,” Sauza appealed before the council. “We need funding to keep our people working.” Sure Helpline provides services to the entire Imperial Valley, stretching from Bombay Beach down to Calexico. Funding comes from the State, federal government, private organizations, and other sources.
Mayor Efrain Silva acknowledged the services of the non-profit organization, “Thank you for your services.”
The Sure Helpline Crisis Center is a 24/7 crisis intervention telephone service. It is free of charge and confidential. Office hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Walk-ins are always welcome, according to a document provided by Sure Helpline.
Gilbert Grijalva, programs manager, said Sure Helpline in El Centro is currently staffed by 12 staff members, plus two employees at another office in Calipatria.
As the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in lockdowns and closures of businesses and services, Sure Helpline Crisis Center continued operating their 24/7 hotline responding to calls for counseling depression, anxiety, self-esteem, and sexual assault response.
“We do this to improve the life of clients and because they are social beings,” said Grijalva, who recently joined the non-profit organization.
Lead Advocate Maritza Pasillas provides counseling to children, teens, parents, and adults. The issues she handles are depression, emotional crises, and self-esteem.
Extended isolation inside residences have caused changes in mood, interrupted routines, and contributed to the rise in anxiety. Even in the absence of physical face-to-face counseling, Pasillas uses technology and social media apps, like Zoom, to speak and counsel her clients.
According to Grijalva, children were affected when parents became physically violent. “Children were afraid of separation by parents. They became upset that home life is not safe and is uncomfortable.”
Furthermore, family members were afraid of getting sick and yet could not isolate themselves because of limited space in their homes. The loss of work contributed to decreased or absent income cascading into financial turmoil. The usual utility bills and rent still had to be paid.
“The Sure Helpline Crisis Center was established in the early 1970s and was originally founded by two local farmers’ wives who wanted to help teens with drug addition,” said Sauza.