Each year some 18,000 new immigrants who are in emotional distress turn to ERAN – Emotional First Aid by Telephone & Internet, but the service does not receive financial support from the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption, members of the Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs learned while visiting ERAN`s offices Wednesday.

Committee Chairman MK Avraham Naguisa (Likud) urged the organization to submit a new request for financial aid, and promised to discuss the issue with Minister of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption Zeev Elkin (Likud) and ask that he approve the request.

Immigration Committee chairman calls on ministries to increase financial support for crisis hotlines servicing new immigrants

Committee Chairman MK Avraham Naguisa

During a meeting held after the tour, Naguisa said many new immigrants experience acclimation difficulties, making ERAN`s work all the more important. The nonprofit is in need of funding to train volunteers who speak French, Russian and Amharic. ”They save hundreds of lives each year, and the government offices must help them,” said the committee chairman.

ERAN director David Koren said the organization is in need of some 500 additional telephone receptionists. ”Those who call us will not commit suicide,” he told the committee, while stressing the need for financial assistance from the government.

Haim Hoffert, who manages the Health Ministry`s mental health budget, said ERAN is receiving 70 percent of this budget, which amounts to some NIS 600,000 per year. The ministry is examining the possibility of significantly increasing financial support for ERAN and other voluntary organizations that provide emotional aid services.

Colonel Keren Ginat, head of the IDF`s mental health unit, mentioned the army`s cooperation with ERAN and its success in reducing the rate of soldier suicides.

”Treatment by mental health officers is not enough, and this is why our cooperation with ERAN is so crucial,” she told the committee. Ginat admitted that the army does not have a Russian or Amharic-speaking mental health officer.