*Plenary: 2023 Updates from the national Disaster Distress Helpline: Resources for and Partnerships with Disaster Behavioral Health Providers

Christian Burgess, Lidija Hurni, & Olivia SteinConstitution Hall Rooms 1-3

About: Launched in 2012 as the only crisis hotline national in scope and dedicated to 24/7/365 support for disaster survivors and responders struggling with emotional distress or other mental health concerns related to natural or human-caused disaster, the Disaster Distress Helpline (DDH) is funded by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and administered by Vibrant Emotional Health. Vibrant also administers the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, of which the DDH is a sub-network. In April 2020, at the onset of the COVID pandemic, call volume to the DDH increased by 900% compared to the same time period a year prior. While volume has steadily decreased since this peak, it continues to trend over 100% higher compared to volume received prior to the pandemic. Compared to the first five years of operation (2012-2016), between 2017-2021 overall DDH call volume increased by over 400% and text volume by over 600%. The DDH has received over 60% of its total volume in the past three years (2020-2022) since launching in 2012, in the midst of increasing severity of natural disasters and incidents of mass violence. Key stakeholders in disaster behavioral health are vital partners to the DDH, helping to promote our services and resources to anyone in the U.S. and territories experiencing disaster distress. During this session, Christian Burgess, MSW, Director of the Disaster Distress Helpline for Vibrant, and Lidija Hurni, DDH Program Manager, along with other DDH staff, will provide insights to Symposium attendees on current DDH volume trends, including recent, common presenting concerns of callers and texters, and will provide updates on two new, innovative DDH services launched in 2021: 1) a Videophone option for Deaf/Hard of Hearing American Sign Language users, and 2) an Online Peer Support program that connects survivors and responders of COVID as well as survivors of incidents of mass violence with trained Peer Supporters staffed by Vibrant and who have lived experience within those targeted communities. The presentation will also provide attendees with information on how the DDH interacts with the newly-launched 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, as a sub-network of this service which is comprised of over 200 independently-operated crisis centers located across the country. The presentation will conclude with DDH staff engaging attendees in discussion and question-and-answer on how disaster behavioral health providers, including Crisis Counseling Programs, can more effectively utilize the DDH at the local, state, and national levels as an essential resource for survivors and responders throughout the disaster cycle. Attendees will be given templates for creating action plans for incorporating the DDH into their disaster behavioral health preparedness, response, and recovery frameworks.


Christian Burgess

  • Pronouns: he/him/his
  • Title: Director of the Disaster Distress Helpline
  • Bio: Based in Gresham, Oregon, Christian Burgess, MSW, is Director of the Disaster Distress Helpline (DDH), a program of the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration administered by the not-for-profit Vibrant Emotional Health. Christian became Director of the DDH in 2012, helping to launch the program, after having joined Vibrant in 2010 as the Training Coordinator for the Oil Spill Distress Helpline project. The DDH is the only crisis hotline national in scope and dedicated to providing 24/7/365 support for survivors and responders of natural or human-caused disasters. Immediately prior to his work at Vibrant, Christian worked for over 10 years in youth violence prevention and trauma intervention in New York City, including as Director of School Programs at Safe Horizon, one of the nation's largest service providers for victims of crime & abuse. Christian ran his 15th marathon in November 2022, the Marine Corps in Washington, D.C., and is working on running a half-marathon in every state.

Lidija Hurni

  • Pronouns: she/her/hers
  • Title: Program Manager, Disaster Distress Helpline
  • Bio: Lidija Hurni has worked in the field of mental health for over ten years, with concentrations in disaster behavioral health, family therapy and suicide prevention. Lidija holds a Master’s Degree in Counseling from Indiana University and is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She is the current Assistant Director of the Disaster Distress Helpline (DDH) at Vibrant Emotional Health. Prior to joining Vibrant, Lidija was the Clinical Director of the Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne Counselor Education program, and provided mental health counseling to individuals, couples, and families in a private practice.

Olivia Stein

  • Pronouns: they/them/theirs
  • Title: Director of Videophone Crisis Line Services at DeafLEAD
  • Olivia Stein, MSW, is the Director of Videophone Crisis Line Services at DeafLEAD, Columbia, Missouri. They manage two videophone hotlines, with one of them being the Disaster Distress Helpline - Videophone (DDH VP). They are a life-long Deaf individual who appreciates and values ongoing direct communication, collaboration, and connection for the diverse, inclusive Deaf and Hard of Hearing (D/HH) community. Their main goals are to be a continuous advocate in reducing systemic barriers, and ensuring resources are made accessible and provided for the D/HH, especially resources that focuses on mental health and disaster crisis care. Olivia currently finds themselves settling along the Front Range of Colorado. Olivia is the third generation of their family who is Deaf and communicates using American Sign Language. When they are not at work, you can often find them enjoying the outdoors, and spending quality time with their family.
Sun 12:00 am - 12:00 am
300 max
crisis hotlines, day two, disaster distress helpline, plenary