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Trevor Project-Contracted Agency Lays Off 988 Suicide Crisis Counselors

Trevor Project-Contracted Agency Lays Off 988 Suicide Crisis Counselors

The Trevor Project represented during a parade

The contracted employees who are out of a job say they’re upset about the timing and the way the layoffs were announced.

Crisis counselors who answer calls dealing with suicidal LGBTQ+ young people on behalf of the Trevor Project for the recently-established 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline are upset about layoffs at the agency. They say they’re outraged not about the layoffs but about how employees were informed of the reduction in the workforce. Some claim that the mental health support agency acted in such a way that it put their own psychological well-being at risk.

Rae Kaplan and Finn DePriest shared their experiences of being contracted by Insight Global to work for The Trevor Project, a non-profit organization that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ+ youth, with The Advocate.

They discussed the recent mass layoffs that affected many employees, including Kaplan. They expressed their disappointment at the organization’s lack of transparency and communication.

Kaplan and DePriest say that on June 14, an invitation for an online meeting was sent out to staff with 2 hours’ notice.

At the meeting, representatives informed attendees that many would be laid off effective July 2. According to Kaplan, the chat feature of the meeting software was disabled — something that had not typically been done in previous meetings on the platform — frustrating those who wanted to provide feedback or ask questions.

“As soon as we started the meeting, it was we were unable to use the chat feature, and they told us and showed us how to get to the Q&A feature. But then [they said] ‘we don’t have time to answer questions now, bye,’” DePriest says. “Most of every other meeting that I’ve ever been in, the chat function has been enabled the entire time, and there’s communication going on throughout the chat the entire time.”

Kaplan and DePriest’s roles included communicating with people who sought to speak with somebody during a moment of emotional turmoil.

While they say they are frustrated with the way the layoffs were announced and how they were being conducted, they acknowledge the importance of continuing to provide crisis services to LGBTQ+ youth.

“Especially in today’s political climate,” says Kaplan. “Calls are way up because so many young people are in distress.”

DePriest was not laid off, but they say they are standing with their colleagues out of solidarity because of principle.

They explain that they came from a stable job and joined the 988 line in January, about six months into the program’s existence.

“But the opportunity to jump on board [with Trevor Project happened] and to support that, I said ‘yes, I have to do it!” they say. “It was rocky for a while. We have a really good team, though, within our cohort.”

DePriest says that for those reasons seeing their colleagues let go is difficult.

“It’s just been really disheartening, especially because they’ve been preaching the 988 line,” they say. “There’s been new sources saying that it’s hard to handle the call volume or the text volume with 988 because it’s being used so widely, but then they go into mass layoffs during some of the most historically worst years for LGBTQ+ people. So a lot of it’s just really been disheartening.”

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre invited LGBTQ+ young people to call the number during a press briefing in April.

“ I want to say directly to LGBTQI+ kids – you are loved just as you are, just the way you are. And if you’re feeling overwhelmed, you call 988,” Jean-Pierre said.

Earlier this month, President Joe Biden also highlighted the 988 number and its expansion for LGBTQ-specific calls.

“We’re investing in the future of LGBTQ kids. Last year, we launched a nationwide crisis hotline for the LGBTQ youth who are feeling isolated and overwhelmed,” Biden said during the White House Pride Month picnic on the South Lawn. “If you need help, if you’re worried, if you’re just concerned – not sure what to do, you need somebody to talk to, you can now pick up the phone and call 988 and talk to a counselor who can give you help.”

A White House official referred The Advocate to the Department of Health and Human Services for comment.

A spokesperson for HHS’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Dani Bennett, explained the scope of the 988 program. SAMHSA oversees the 988 program.

The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline has been operating a pilot program, through the Trevor Project, since September 2022 to offer specialized call, text, and chat support for LGBTQI+ youth and young adults under the age of 25 who want the option of connecting with a counselor specifically focused on meeting the needs of LGBTQI+ youth and young adults,” Bennett tells The Advocate.

“This pilot program has been incredibly successful in connecting LGBTQI+ youth to mental health services, and SAMHSA is now working to expand these service offerings for LGBTQI+ youth,” she adds. “The pilot is expected to conclude on July 3, when the service is expected to become a permanent 988 Lifeline subnetwork, with an expansion that will result in a 39 percent increase in staffing capacity to provide this critical service for LGBTQI+ youth. To increase the capacity of providers to support LGBTQI+ youth, the new subnetwork will consist of seven centers, including the Trevor Project and six others, answering calls, texts, and chats.”

Bennett noted that during the pilot phase, demand for LGBTQ+ youth and young adult services reflected 6 percent of calls, 15 percent of chats, and 17 percent of text messages routed to the 988 network.

Founder and interim CEO of The Trevor Project Peggy Rajski responded to The Advocate’s request for comment with a statement.

“Given the high volume of counselors needed for the pilot phase of 988 and the fluctuation of government funding, we contract Insight Global, a third-party resource, to provide counseling contractor counselors to help support 988,” Rajski wrote. “The folks hired via Insight Global to provide services to Trevor are not Trevor employees.”

She explained that the federal government’s funding for the LGBTQ+ crisis contacts at 988 is being distributed to a subnetwork of the call centers mentioned by Bennett. Whereas The Trevor Project was the exclusive provider of LGBTQ-inclusive services during the pilot stage, which ends on July 2, moving forward, the organization is just one of seven centers.

“As such, we – like many other organizations and businesses receiving government awards – must contend with the reality of needing to ramp up or ramp down staff and vendors relative to the funds available,” Rasjki continued.

“Bottom line, given the funds that The Trevor Project receives from the federal government are being reduced, we are not able to continue engaging vendors to provide the number of contractors we originally needed,” she explained.

She wrote that this process might cause some people to understandably become upset, angry, or frustrated.

“At the same time, this is The Trevor Project’s first federal contract and the government’s first-ever national suicide lifeline. Everyone has been learning as we go – including learning that the demand for these services is even greater than expected,” she said.

The 988 services, she said, will reach more LGBTQ+ young people now that the subnetwork of centers has expanded.

“The fact that we will now have partners in our work to meet the widespread and growing need for our services helps us fulfill Trevor’s mission to end suicide among our beloved LGBTQ constituency,” Rajski said.

If you are having thoughts of suicide or are concerned that someone you know may be, resources are available to help. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 is for people of all ages and identities. Trans Lifeline, designed for transgender or gender-nonconforming people, can be reached at (877) 565-8860. The lifeline also provides resources to help with other crises, such as domestic violence situations. The Trevor Project Lifeline, for LGBTQ+ youth (ages 24 and younger), can be reached at (866) 488-7386. Users can also access chat services at or text START to 678678.

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