Darryl Johnson, admissions intake director, sitting, with JoAnn Vitale, director of day...

Darryl Johnson, admissions intake director, sitting, with JoAnn Vitale, director of day and community services, and, at right, Charles Evdos, executive director, at the Rise Life Services in Riverhead on Thursday. Credit: James Carbone

A Riverhead-based nonprofit has started a hotline for people struggling with mental health, substance abuse and other issues to stem the rise of such problems on the East End.

RISE Life Services, which operates group homes across Long Island for people with special needs, on Monday launched 855-RISE-LIFE. The help line will be available for people seeking assistance for children and adults with disabilities and other mental or physical challenges on both the North and South Forks.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, the Riverhead nonprofit has seen the demand increase for services they provide such as outpatient services and food pantry access, according to Charles Evdos, executive director of RISE.

"We created the help line to really work with families that need our help," Evdos said in an interview Tuesday. "There’s a tremendous need on the East End for people that really have no idea what to do and we’re here to help them."

The nonprofit receives about 100 calls per month from people seeking assistance, according to RISE representatives. They have also seen a 14% increase in need for their services during the last five years.

The help line will also focus on connecting people to resources for substance abuse, food pantries, housing and clinical services, support groups, crisis help and connecting with local and county agencies. RISE has hired a part-time employee to assist with the hotline, Evdos said.

With youths struggling with mental and physical disabilities beginning to age out of state-provided residential services after they become 21 years old, Evdos said the hotline is important to give parents with such children resources and guidance to help them, especially on the East End where distance makes it harder for parents to access those resources.

"Because of all the calls we’ve been getting, we see a tremendous need to do this. I myself get 10 calls a week from people seeking help. The East End has been a difficult area to deal with because of geography," Evdos said.

The 855-RISE-LIFE hotline has a live RISE staff member available from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. seven days a week, with an after-hours answering service connecting callers to RISE staffer for same-day assistance.

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