Health Ministry agrees for funding for ERAN emotional crisis hotline
"At a time when finances are low and emotional distress is high, it is necessary to do everything we can to save ERAN."
By JESSICA LEVING
Deputy Health Minister Ya'acov Litzman decided during a committee meeting Wednesday that the government would increase its financial support of ERAN, Israel's emotional crisis and suicide prevention hotline. The size of the budget increase will be decided at a later date.
MK Ze'ev Bielski, who spearheaded the initiative to increase support for the financially strapped organization, said at the meeting, "At a time when finances are low and emotional distress is high, it is necessary to do everything we can to save ERAN."
According to Bielski's spokesman, Michal Hochberg, the Health Ministry only accounts for 2.5 percent of ERAN's budget - the rest being made up of donations, which had declined recently.
"Donations in Israel have declined dramatically over the past year with the economic crisis," Hochberg said. "And from abroad, they have stopped altogether."
Hochberg said ERAN had requested NIS 5 million from the ministry, but that the total amount the budget allots to nongovernmental organizations was NIS 9m., so that a new budget might need to be approved.
ERAN, which calls itself "Israel's only emotional first aid service", serves over 270,000 people per year. According to the organization's Web site, counseling is available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, in Hebrew, Arabic, Russian and Amharic, by phone and by internet.
"Hundreds of people call them every day - children, the elderly, Holocaust survivors. You know, people become more and more lonely in the world today. And it's important to offer this support in several languages, " said Bielski. The counseling was provided by a staff of nearly 1,000 volunteers located at ten centers, he added.
"Because of the serious situation they are in with donations, ERAN was at a risk of closing down," he said. "When I heard that, I dropped everything I was doing to make sure they can carry on. I came to the meeting today to say that a service like this is the responsibility of the government.
"Thank God we've got volunteers to step in when the government doesn't. I'm very happy that the deputy minister agreed in principle, and hopefully over the next few days they will give ERAN some aid and their needs will be met."
Bielski said he had become involved with the organization after witnessing the positive effect it had in Ra'anana during his time as the city's mayor.
"A lot of people used this service and got a good response," he said. "It helped them to go through difficult times."
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