The Utah County Crisis Line, a special help line for the depressed, suicidal and others needing a listening ear, is having a problem of its own.
Late last week, the Crisis Line was forced to temporarily shut down when its liability insurance carrier, Huntington Block of Washington, D.C., pulled the line's coverage after an audit of the organization showed financial problems."Huntington Block's standards are that an organization's audit must indicate solvency," said Bud Poduska, president of the Crisis Line board of directors. "The last audit of the Crisis Line indicated a tax liability."
Poduska said the problems began in 1987-88 - right after the 1987 tax revision went into place.
"Through some confusion (about) all the forms on a non-profit organization that needed to be filled (out) . . . monies were sent to the wrong areas or not sent in at all," Poduska said.
This included FICA and federal withholding taxes on employees.
"The federal government and the Internal Revenue Service have since been satisfied. We are still working with the state," he said. "Until the matter is cleared up, the insurance company will not issue any coverage."
The decision to close down the line was a protective measure for the line workers. The insurance is comparable to malpractice insurance for doctors.
"We thought we could clear it up a little faster than it is going," Poduska said. "We finally realized we were out on a limb and for liability sake we needed to close it (the crisis line) down."
More than 60 volunteers, one manager and six board members have been put on hold until the matter is cleared up - hopefully, within the next few months, Poduska said.
"We were supportive of the board's action," said Bill Hulterstrom, director of the Utah County United Way, which provides funding for the crisis line.
"It really leaves the board and the volunteers exposed," Poduska said. "Due to the high risk nature and the type of work done at the crisis line, there is an inherent risk."
According to Poduska, the IRS and state have cooperated by removing some penalties assessed against the agency.
For now, Utah County residents needing help may call the national toll-free crisis line number, 1-800-333-4444, or locally call 377-TALK for a recorded listing of phone numbers of area agencies helping out while the crisis line is shut down.