Counseling alum uses skills at South Florida helpline
2-1-1 Broward connects people to services, assists those in crisis
Billie Morgan's journey to enter a helping profession took her from being a Counseling major at Marshall University in West Virginia to Nova Southeastern University.
“I was always passionate about developmental disabilities, and there really wasn’t a program for working with people with special needs,” Morgan said.
Morgan worked at the Autism Services Center in West Virginia and worked with adults with developmental disabilities.
“I really liked more to share my knowledge,” she said. “I feel like I can have a greater impact sharing that awareness of behavioral health.
Morgan moved to South Florida and got a job in the developmental disabilities field. She worked and saved money to take one class a semester in NSU’s Mental Health Counseling master’s program. At that pace, Morgan was able to take classes without loans and completed the program in five years. Morgan said she was drawn to NSU in part because she knew some graduates and current students.
“They were getting a top notch education and they were advancing, and I wanted that opportunity for myself,” she said.
Before finishing her degree in 2008, Morgan got a job at the nonprofit 2-1-1 Broward, a resource and crisis hotline for Broward County residents. The 24-hour hotline connects people to community services and offers support from counselors with crises like abuse, depression, family issues, and suicidal thoughts. The helpline takes about 100,000 calls annually.
Morgan started out at 2-1-1 as a special needs manager and has worked in multiple roles over the last decade. She’s now the Director of Training and Staff Development, working with the counselors who answer the helpline. Those counselors need to have skills like compassion, risk assessment, and the ability to de-escalate situations where people are suicidal.
“We’re talking to multiple people who are having the worst day of their lives, so our counselors have to be sharp,” she said.
Because of the stress that comes with the work, Morgan emphasizes mindfulness. The office has a garden set up for staff who need to take a break and decompress after difficult calls.
“I’d never heard the words ‘self-care’ and ‘mindfulness’ until I went to Nova,” she said. “It is so important that we are mindful of our own mental health and wellness so we can help others.”
Morgan also works in community outreach to increase awareness about the signs of suicide and issues like youth suicide. The latter became more important following the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which Morgan said caused an increase in calls to the helpline.
Outside of her work at 2-1-1 Broward, Morgan works as event chair for The Expo, an annual event hosted at NSU’s Fort Lauderdale/Davie Campus that showcases art and music created by people with disabilities and that provides information about community services.
Morgan believes her time at NSU has had a lasting impact on her life and career.
“I have lifetime friends from the program, and I wouldn’t trade that for the world,” she said.
To learn more about NSU's Clinical Mental Health Counseling concentration, click here.