“Whether you realize it or not, there are people out there who care about you,” said Alexander (Alex) Rulon ‘09 Director of Community Care at Talbert House in Cincinnati. The Talbert House assists clients through a wide array of services divided into five categories – addiction, community care, court and corrections, housing and mental health. While each case is unique and treated as such, Talbert House employees and volunteers aim to follow the guiding principles of prevention, assessment, treatment and reintegration with each project. According to Alex, the need for their mental health and crisis-related services grows each day, due to the country’s ongoing suicide and mental illness epidemic.
In light of this problem, Congress passed a bill in 2020 that would allow for a short, easily memorized suicide prevention hotline to be rolled out nationwide. As of this year, the Ohio Senate has secured the funding necessary to make this happen locally, with the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) placed in charge of the project. Alex and his team are responsible for running the initiative’s home base, since Talbert House is now the designated call center for the greater Cincinnati area, as well as an official backup for the rest of the state and the entire country.
“988 is a simplified version of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s original 10 digit number,” Alex explained. “Dialing the three digits connects a person in crisis with trained intervention providers who are warm, empathetic, caring and available to help 24/7/365. In addition to our work with 988, Talbert House is also the backup provider for the state of Ohio in the event a primary location were to miss a 988 call. We are also one of 12 National Backup Centers through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, meaning that in addition to fielding calls from around Cincinnati and Ohio, we receive calls from people across all 50 states and surrounding territories.”
Alex believes that by shortening the number of digits needing to be entered, more people will be able to commit them to memory and therefore, more likely to use it if needed or spread the word to others. According to the OhioMHAS, the long-term goal is for the new 988 emergency hotline to become common knowledge like its 911 counterpart for the same reasons.
For Alex, the desire to help others has always been strong, and he is grateful to be able to marry the personal passion with his chosen profession. He maintains this is much more than just another job.
“Upon graduation from Tiffin University in 2009, I wanted to be in a profession where I could help people,” he offered. “I chose to work with Talbert House because their mission of empowering children, adults and families to live healthy, safe and productive lives, matched my personal/professional passion. Talbert House’s culture of growing their own has provided me with wonderful opportunities to advance and diversify my experience in community mental health. I’m very proud to represent this organization because of what it stands for and the impact it has on the public.”
Alex strongly encourages anyone interested in volunteer advocacy work to give it a try, as it is deeply rewarding.
“There are many suicide and emotional crisis hotlines around the country in need of dedicated staff,” he began. “Crisis lifelines are also wonderful places for people to start careers in social services because it affords them experience in all sectors of the profession and provides a solid foundation of knowledge to build from. Ohio also happens to be unique in the fact that we offer 19 suicide hotlines that compose our 988 network, which is more than any other state.”
To anyone who may be experiencing mental health complications, Alex has the following message: “If you are struggling and aren’t able to speak with someone close to you, please know there are numerous hotlines like 988 and other resources available. There will always be people ready and eager to help you through this challenging time.”
The Tiffin University Community commends Alex and the others with Talbert House for their continued commitment to this necessary work.
For more information about Talbert House and its affiliates, visit talberthouse.org.
To learn more about the services and resources available through the OhioMHAS, visit mha.ohio.gov/home.