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OC HIGH: STUDENT NEWS & VIEWS : Answering Calls for Help : Support: Hot lines--whether over drug abuse, sexuality or family relationships--can be the difference between coping and not for the desperate teen-ager.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; <i> Brian Singer, a senior at Fullerton Union High School, is a regular contributor to OC High. </i>

In times of need, the telephone can be a teen-ager’s best friend.

If they are feeling out of touch with parents or they are hesitant to even tell friends of their innermost problems, an impartial, caring voice on the other end of the phone can often help.

A wide variety of hot lines enable teen-agers to confidentially explain their problems and receive help in a protective atmosphere. Some of the many hot lines are for runaway youths, alcohol and drug abusers, abused children, overeaters and smokers.

The most all-purpose hot line for teens to receive specific referrals to the help they need is the California Youth Crisis Line at (800) 843-5200.

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“A lot of times, kids don’t have places to go or people to talk to,” says Linda Wise, a counselor at the California Youth Authority. Hot lines are a good place to start for teen-agers--or parents--who are caught in a crisis, she says.

“Parents sometimes get in trouble with their parenting skills, and nobody knows how to fix the problems,” Wise said. “People sometimes aren’t willing to admit (problems) and ask for help in ways that are natural.”

Jim Anderson, an IRS agent who volunteers his time to staff a hot line, says help lines often act as referral services. “If we can’t help them, we can find someone who can help them,” Anderson said.

Anderson said, for instance, that runaway youths can be directed to shelters in their area to get them off the streets. If asked, volunteers can also call a runaway’s parents, although unless advised by the runaways, parents will not be told the whereabouts of their child.

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Sharon Greenwood, coordinator of the Student Assistance Group at Fullerton Union High School, said hot lines and shelters can “get the kid off the streets and to a safe place. Also, they can re-establish contact with parents and not be forced to go home.”

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Orange County has a variety of youth shelters where services range from a place to stay to counseling and classes.

The Casa de Bienvenidos Youth Shelter in Los Alamitos provides individual and family counseling to as many as 12 youths at a time. Clinic director Gary Zager said that although the shelter receives some federal funding, 80% of the money comes from United Way, private foundations and donations.

One of the county’s unlucky shelters is the Odyssey Runaway Youth Shelter in Anaheim. Praised by local counselors as a safe haven for troubled youths, the shelter was forced to close in July because of a federal funding shortfall.

“We feel really bad about it,” said Frank Scott, executive director of Western Youth Services, which operates many county shelters. “The agency does not have enough money to maintain” the shelter. Scott said he is hopeful the shelter will find a way to reopen in November, when the weather begins to cool.

“We were the oldest program providing services for runaway youth in Orange County. However, without the federal funding, we’re not able to maintain the program,” he said.

In addition to being a resource for runaways, hot lines provide guidance on a daily basis for teens facing many other kinds of problems.

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Overeaters Anonymous has started programs in California geared specifically to teen-agers. By calling the information line, (714) 669-3000, teen-agers “can start dealing with (their eating disorder) early and not have to lose a lot of years of humiliation,” says Kathy, a hot line worker who solved her eating disorder through Overeaters Anonymous.

Some teens are overwhelmed by the prospect of telling family and friends about their gay or lesbian sexual orientation. Support groups provide teen-agers the opportunity to discuss their feelings with fellow gays and lesbians.

“The support groups provide the opportunity to discuss issues that may come up, from suicide to dealing with other siblings and other family members,” said George Neighbors of the National Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. The local chapter can be reached at (714) 997-8047.

Whatever the specific problem--whether it concerns sexuality, family relationships, violence or addictions--teens in Orange County can often find a start toward resolution by picking up the phone and asking for help.

Where to Find Help in Orange County

Here are some of the help lines serving teens in Orange County:

CALIFORNIA YOUTH CRISIS LINE

(800) 843-5200

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24 hours

Staffed by California Child and Youth Family Coalition workers and volunteers. Will offer an ear to callers or provide referrals for local help and support on issues dealing with family problems, health, sexuality, food disorders, emotions, child care, shelters, drugs, alcohol, suicide and others. Runaways who are scared and have no money can call crisis line and be patched through to their parents.

YOUTH SERVICES ASSISTANCE

(714) 494-4311

24 hours

(714) 250-0488

Weekdays, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Referral service for all types of problems, from legal to health concerns. Sponsored by Community Services Program.

CALIFORNIA SELF-HELP CENTER

(800) 222-5465

10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Thursday

Will tell callers where to find help in Orange County. Volunteers based at UCLA; sponsored by Department of Mental Health.

RAPE CRISIS HOTLINE

(714) 957-2737

24 hours

Toll-free in Orange County. Staffed by counselors, certified through the Office of Criminal Justice Planning, who can offer assistance to any victim of sexual assault

CRIME VICTIM INFORMATION

(714) 756-0677

8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday

To assist victims of any crime. Can offer information on what to do, resources, court orientation and support, referral to therapists. Group also has offices in every courthouse. Operated by the Office of Criminal Justice Planning.

ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

(714) 556-4555

8 a.m.-9 p.m. weekdays; 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays; 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Sundays and holidays

For anyone who wishes to quit drinking alcohol. Group will link you with a person of same gender and similar age in the city where you live. Information on meetings, lots of literature, support help. Callers can also get referral help from an answering service during non-operational hours.

ALATEEN/ALANON

(714) 545-1102

9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. weekdays

9:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday

If drinking by a family member or friend is bothering you, Al-Anon volunteers are available to help you sort through the problems. Support meetings run by teen-agers are held throughout the county.

NICOTINE ANONYMOUS

(714) 772-5330

Group of people dedicated to freedom from nicotine. Information line provides dates of meetings throughout county, with the name and phone number of a contact person in various areas. You do not have to have quit smoking to attend meetings.

COANON

(714) 647-6698

24 hours

For friends or families of cocaine addicts, whether they are still addicted. Recording offers a list of meetings. If you want to talk with someone, leave your first name and phone number, and a volunteer will get back to you.

NARCOTICS ANONYMOUS

(714) 776-8581

24 hours

For anyone who wants to get off drugs. The 12-step program offers meetings and support from recovering addicts.

OVEREATERS ANONYMOUS

(714) 669-3000

9 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday; 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesday; 3:30-7:30 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday

A 12-step program for people who have a problem with food. Meetings for teen-agers available. Callers can get the number of a contact person in their area. Group also offers meetings for those experiencing problems with bulimia or anorexia. During off-hours, callers can hear a recording of meeting times.

GAMBLERS ANONYMOUS

(714) 527-2251

24 hours

For those who want to quit gambling. Callers will get a recording offering names and phone numbers of persons to talk with.

SAFE RIDE PROGRAMS

Program available at many high schools, offering free rides to any teen-ager who is too intoxicated to safely drive home. Some programs run year-round, others only during holiday and prom seasons. If there is no program operating at your school, the Orange County Council of the Boy Scouts of America, (714) 546-4990, can help establish one.


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