AMES — As the holiday bills are coming in and stress levels begin to rise, January and February are typically the busiest months of the year for counselors at the Iowa Concern Hotline.
Tammy Jacobs, the hotlines coordinator with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, says the free service is available to all Iowans, every day and at any time of day or night. “We offer stress counseling. We have counselors who are trained to talk to people about what’s going on, help walk them though the steps and develop skills in order to work through those,” Jacobs says. “We have legal staff available to help out with any legal questions that they might have. We also work with Extension and Outreach finance specialists, if people are having a financial issue going on.”
While the counselors work to address any issue callers may bring up, at this time of year, Jacobs says money matters are often front and center. “With the holidays being over, people are starting to get together with their tax consultants, going over some of their bills,” Jacobs says. “People are starting to meet with their bankers and farm financial providers in order to get operating loans for the next season.”
With last year’s heavy rains and widespread flooding, many calls to the hotline focused on worries about spring planting and the fall harvest. With 2020 being an election year, Jacobs couldn’t predict how the call volume may fluctuate. “Generally, we see between 400 and 600 calls a month just on the Iowa Concern Hotline,” Jacobs says. “Sometimes, we may see 700 or 800 calls a month. It just depends on what’s happening in the world, and if it’s flooding and there are disasters, then those calls may be a little bit higher.”
To reach the Iowa Concern Hotline, call 800-447-1985, or some people might be more comfortable using a computer. “We’ve got the live chat. We also have Email an Expert, so if people just want to email a question in, then we can respond back to them,” Jacobs says. “We’re looking at probably within the next month, adding a text option to the Iowa Concern Hotline as well.”
The service was launched in 1985 during the Farm Crisis and was then known as the Rural Concern Hotline. The name was changed in 1993 to the Iowa Concern Hotline to reflect a broader reach and availability to anyone, farmers and non-farmers, rural and urban Iowans.