The state plans to replace the handsets on the crisis hotline phones on the Penobscot Narrows Bridge, after months of problems with the devices that were installed to save lives.
Only one of four phones was in proper working order on Monday, the BDN found. One phone on the Verona Island side of the bridge worked fine, but the one across the street was out of order.
The two phones on the Prospect side of the span connected to the crisis hotline but it was very difficult at times to hear the person on the other end.
The news comes after it was revealed last week that three of the phones were out of order on Friday, the same day that officials were searching the water for a possible body after a vehicle was reportedly left parked on the bridge. The Maine State Police opened a missing person’s case for the vehicle’s owner and officials have stopped actively searching for the person after looking by air, boat and land over the weekend, Jeff Nichols, spokesman for the Maine Department of Marine Resources, said Monday.
“The vendor is sending us new handsets,” Maine Department of Transportation spokesman Ted Talbot said Monday, of Rath Security, based in Sussex, Wisconsin. “They diagnosed the issue and are sending us new ear pieces. They are overnighting them at no cost.”
The four solar-powered phones were installed in May 2015 to help prevent suicides by connecting people to the Statewide Crisis Hotline at (888) 568-1112. There are two phones on each end of the bridge, which has seen seven known suicide deaths since opening to the public in 2006.
The state has had trouble with the phones for months, Talbot said Friday.
They should be repaired by Wednesday at the latest, he said.
“We’re going to know right away” if the problem is fixed, he said Friday.
Maine DOT maintenance crews unsuccessfully tried to find and fix the issues after it was discovered that three of the four phones were broken on Friday.
Talbot had blamed the weather, including lightning strikes, as possible reasons for the problems.
“They’ve worked great” until this past winter, he said.
Rath General Manager Mark Abbott did not respond to messages seeking comment on Friday and Monday.
The phones are housed in protective boxes below signs that read “Picking up the receiver will connect you with a crisis worker,” and
“You are not alone.”
Additional signs will soon be added, to provide the crisis hotline number (888) 568-1112, Talbot said.
“It will say something like, ‘If this phone is inoperable, call the crisis hotline,” he said.
If you or someone you know is in crisis and contemplating suicide, call the Maine Crisis Hotline at 1-888-568-1112. If you are not in Maine, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). A trained crisis prevention worker will be available to talk and set you up with services to help. You can also communicate directly with a crisis counselor online at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.