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Recommendations for American Indian and Alaska Native Programs

Voicemail Monitoring and Follow-Up

Purpose: Establish voicemail protocols for staff to respond to patients in crisis seeking help.

Introduction: Receiving a voicemail by a patient in crisis can be daunting and fear inducing. By establishing clear and concise communication for staff to follow, staff can provide timely and needed communication and feel competent in dealing with patients in crisis.

Recommendation 1: Create clear concise program voicemail protocols for facilities and programs. All staff who have access and use voicemail for work related activities should have an updated outgoing voicemail message indicating a name and the number reached. The outgoing message should include clear and concise instructions for patients in crisis to access immediate medical assistance.

Recommendation 2: Establish a follow up procedure for all voicemails received.

Facility and program leadership should consider establishing procedures for staff to follow if a voicemail is received from a patient in crisis. Procedures should address: what to do, who to contact, timeline for return contact; how to document actions taken; and list of available emergency crisis contacts for staff to use.

Recommendation 3: Integrate voicemail protocols to ensure trauma-informed, customer service focus for organization or agency.

Facility and programs should ensure voicemail messages are updated regularly with current and relevant information. Outgoing voicemail messages should provide a customer service focus and should reflect a trauma-informed orientation. Staff should check and respond to their voicemail promptly, in accordance with local policies, and in a consistent manner to ensure follow up for all patients.

Recommendation 4: Establish an outgoing voicemail message template for staff use. Consider using or modifying voicemail for internal use.

  • "Hello. You’ve reached [Name] at [Number]. If you are experiencing a life threatening emergency, please hang up and dial 9-1-1. If you are experiencing an emotional crisis and thinking about suicide, please hang up and dial the 1-800-273-8255. That number again is 1-800-273-8255. Otherwise, please leave your name and number and I will respond as soon as I am able to [or indicate date]. Thank you for calling."

Recommendation 5: Consider a range of follow-up methods for patients who call in crisis and leave messages.

Consider contacting the patient directly. If the patient is known, utilize any emergency contact information available to reach the patient. If patient is unknown, attempt to gather information and contact local police. Have a listing of emergency crisis contacts and a listing of potential referral access points for patients. Provide staff with annual suicide prevention gatekeeper training to ensure staff have necessary skills to recognize and respond to suicide.

Conclusion: Assuring patient safety is of the upmost importance. Facilities and programs can take a few proactive steps to offer support, provide resources, and be of aid to patients in crisis.