Care is only a phone call away

By Eric Butler

Editor’s note: This is the sixth in a series of United Way agency profiles scheduled for publication each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday through Nov. 21.

Every weekday morning, “I Still Care” program coordinator Mary Odegaard gets on the phone to call 40-to-50 people.
It’s a task she begins at 7:00 a.m. and finishes at around 10:00 a.m. — a task that seems to be a logistic impossibility, if there’s any substantial amount of conversation at all.
But, while Odegaard certainly does have talks of substance, her main purpose is just to make sure that the “I Still Care” clients — mostly senior citizens — are doing okay. And that can be done in just a few moments sometimes.
“Most of them don’t talk that much; I have a few that like to talk, but most of them just want you checking on them,” Odegaard says. “Even if they have family here, sometimes those are gone and they just have another friend to call them. Some of them don’t get any telephone calls at all.”
“I Still Care” is a service that sprouted from the Crisis Center in Clovis, which refers callers-in-need to different programs specializing in areas such as drug abuse, depression and divorce.
Odegaard says that she can sometimes tell, from the sound of the voice, whether her clients are in need of medical help.
“You can tell when they’re tired or not breathing good,” Odegaard says. “I try to call at the same time every day and they let me know about it if I’m late. That way, they’re expecting it. Most of them are shut-ins and the first place I call if I can’t get somebody is the hospital.”
“If they’re sick or need help, we may call their neighbors to see if they’re okay,” says Ruby Fowler, director of the Crisis Center.
Fowler is also the primary monitor for the Crisis Referral Hotline, which is 762-5454.
Some of the organizations that Fowler refers callers to include Mental Health Resources, Southern New Mexico Legal Services, La Casa Family Health Center and the Lighthouse Mission.
Like Odegaard, Fowler says that seriousness of the hotline caller’s particular crisis can be ascertained through the tone of the voice — even if she’s never talked to that person before.
The problems that she encounters sometimes include the most difficult ones imaginable.
“There was a lady that called here awhile back and she was suicidal. We got to talking and I asked if she had any children,” Fowler says. “She did and I asked her to stop and them what that would do to them. Sometimes, after we’re done talking, they’re out of the notion of suicide.”