New Podcast: Vital Community Care | South Dakota Community Foundation

New Podcast: Vital Community Care

The Helpline Center (THC) began serving South Dakota in 1974, and through the years, the agency has grown to become a 24-hour/7-days-a-week service. It is the first location west of the Mississippi River to begin 2-1-1 services and is available to the entire state of South Dakota. As an organization, THC serves thousands of people yearly by connecting individuals to resources and support, connecting local agency volunteers, and offering hope to individuals with thoughts of suicide.

THC is the only entity in South Dakota accredited by the Alliance for Information and Referral Systems and the only statewide entity that provides a certified crisis line through the American Association of Suicidology. THC is a blended call center, meaning that all of the staff are cross trained to handle crisis and information/referral phone calls.

“It doesn’t matter who you are. We all fall on hard times. Sometimes we just need help and support, and that is okay,” concluded Janet.

Jeff Veltkamp, South Dakota Community Foundation (SDCF)’s Director of Development spoke with Janet Kittams, the Chief Executive Officer for the Helpline Center to discuss her work, and the community support THC offers to South Dakota. Janet has served as the CEO of THC for the last 12 years and has been with the organization for over 25 years.

“I’ve always been passionate about mental health and people getting the help that they need,” stated Janet on what drew her to work with THC. Janet began as a volunteer at THC in the call center answering calls and providing assistance through the organization’s helpline. After a year of volunteer work, she joined the organization as the Call Center Director.

When speaking on all that THC offers, Janet shared that it is a complex organization, but they are most known for their 2-1-1 line — a 24-hour/7-days-a-week resource number anyone can call for a wide variety of needs, ranging from housing or food assistance to general information. THC recently established a second call center number, 9-8-8, which is a 24-hour/ 7-days-a-week line that focuses specifically on mental health, substance abuse, mental distress, crisis, and suicide — and like 2-1-1, it is available statewide.

Jeff Veltkamp presents SDCF Legacy Society Hometown Hero award to Janet Kittams, CEO and Betsy Schuster of the Helpline Center

Along with the call center, THC also operates a volunteer connection center, helping to connect volunteers to organizations throughout the Sioux Falls, Black Hills, and Brookings areas. THC has many programs crafted for specific community needs.

“Over the years a lot of needs have been addressed so we have been able to step forward and meet those needs as an organization,” added Janet.

The SDCF has partnered with THC on several occasions.

“The South Dakota Community Foundation has been a tremendous help over the years,” said Janet. She shared the details on one of the most recent grant opportunities held through the SDCF–the Helpline Center Network of Care. The program assists local organizations in specific communities throughout the state, utilizing software that allows inter-agency communication to happen. This networking helps benefit organizations, as well as the individuals they serve, to create more efficiency in community care.

“It doesn’t matter who you are. We all fall on hard times. Sometimes we just need help and support, and that is okay,” concluded Janet.

To learn more about the work of the Helpline Center, click here: