Support 7 launches ‘virtual’ chaplain response hotline

Shannon Sessions

A new hotline aimed at assisting first responders and disaster victims during the COVID-19 outbreak has been established by Support 7 and South Snohomish County Chaplains.

Since 1981, Support 7 and South Snohomish County Chaplains have been aiding local first responders, serving face-to-face as compassionate-care liaisons during on-scene death incidents, helping victims and survivors connect the dots to practical next steps. Now, they have created a way during this unprecedented time, to keep their own volunteers and members of the community safe while still continuing this critical work.

“As this national health emergency extends, we have adapted our delivery method for how we continue to safely serve our local first responders and how we respond directly to help those in crisis in South Snohomish County,” said Shannon Sessions, Executive Director of Support 7 and South County Chaplains.

Sessions said the “virtual” Support 7 Chaplain Response Hotline cards are the organization’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

When necessary, first responders at an incident where individuals and families need immediate assistance call the hotline and request Support 7 follow up with those in need. First responders are supplied with printed cards to leave with those who need services so they can call to speak to a chaplain when ready. Chaplains are working 24/7 to provide follow-up with local calls via phone, text, Zoom technology, FaceTime, or email.

“These are unprecedented times, but thankfully there is technology to allow the vital support services of Support 7 to safely continue to offer compassion to individuals and first responders in times of great need,” Sessions said.

According to Sessions, the hotline is not currently available to the general public and is being used exclusively for first responders at on-scene emergency incidents in South Snohomish County.

“It’s been a week since we’ve rolled out the new cards and the Chaplain Response Hotline to South Snohomish County Fire and South County law enforcement agencies and there have been calls to it,” Sessions said. “While it’s not as good as being in person, we are grateful to still be able to assist in a small but meaningful way. We treat these families the way we would want our families treated.”

Sessions added that Support 7 volunteers are trained, trusted and vetted to assist others through immediate next steps and connecting to local resources such as funeral, county medical examiner, grief and counseling resources, local assistance with temporary housing/clothing, Red Cross, local churches and practical next steps to hope, healing and more.

“Even without COVID-19, our community is touched by all kinds of unexpected and tragic events that impact families and first responders,” she said. “Such as residential and commercial fires, crime scene deaths, natural end of life deaths are common responses for the Support 7 team.”

Support 7 devotes hundreds of hours to assist first responders to care more effectively for a victim’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs at times of significant incidents of trauma, Sessions added.

“Supporting families around the tragic increase in self-inflicted deaths by suicide is another way we provide community care,” she said. 

To make a donation to ICM/Support 7, visit support7.org, online to PayPal with the profile bookkeepericm@gmail.com, or sent to PO Box 2604 Lynnwood, WA 98036.

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