On January 23rd, 2020 Jennifer Furey, a Pathways Vermont Support Line operator, testified at the Statehouse on behalf of Pathways Vermont. She advocated for the expansion of the Pathways Vermont Support Line to be open 24/7 as the line is currently only open from 3 PM to 6 AM. Below is her testimony.
“Hello, My name is Jennifer Furey, I live in Barre and I have been an operator on the Pathways Vermont Support Line for over 4 years now. I have battled the adversity that having a mental health diagnosis carries for most of my life. I have found myself over medicated by psychiatrists and having clinical staff try to make most life-decisions for me; ranging from what medication I take, …to where I could live… to the jobs they felt I could handle.
I was first reached by peer support back in 2010 when I received help from a volunteer through our local designated agency to help me get to multiple activities within the community. During my conversations with this volunteer, she disclosed to me that she struggled with mental illness as well, and spoke to me about her lived experiences. For once, I didn’t feel alone. That connection was a turning point for me and I quickly decided I wanted to provide peer support for others. I applied to Pathways Vermont’s Support Line where my life experience is considered an asset and started working as an Operator.
When I started work at Pathways Vermont in October of 2015, I found it very different from other organizations that I had been involved with in the past. We are trained to connect with each caller and create the time and space to have open conversations that can be some folk’s only outlet for many of their feelings. For example, I have helped many callers who are struggling with feelings of suicide find a safe place to discuss these thoughts. We work to help folks get to a place of mutual understanding and safety while avoiding harm and the use of many times unnecessary emergency services
Working for the line has been very rewarding as I have built ongoing connections with callers who call regularly and experience their ups and downs with them. Last week I had a new caller say to me “I thought I was alone ” when we realized we both shared the experience of being over medicated. I know Support Line helps people struggling with loneliness maintain connection and traumatizing and costly hospitalizations. There is a need around this state for these services at all hours of the day. I have had callers ask if we are available 24 hours a day. Unfortunately, we are currently only open from 3 PM to 6 AM. For a relatively small investment, Vermont can make this reality and help more Vermonters find the connection they need to thrive. Thank you for your time.”