Fulton County Schools and Fulton County government have collaborated to expand Text 4 Help, an initiative with the goal to relieve youth stress and anxiety.

'Text 4 Help' is an "anonymous crisis text line aimed at providing a valuable resource for students seeking support or an outlet to share concerns."

The program allows teens facing stress or crisis to reach a licensed clinician who will respond within three minutes, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

According to a news release, the program was introduced by Fulton County District 2 Commissioner Bob Ellis, after seeing the tremendous success of the program in the Chicago area.

"We are so proud to be the first in the Southeast to launch the Text 4 Help program,” said Ellis, who is also Vice Chair of the Commission.

"Text 4 Help" was founded in 2014 by Linking Efforts Against Drugs or L.E.A.D. Executive Director Andy Duran.

L.E.A.D is a nonprofit agency in Lake County, Illinois.

The program is now available to 10 million youth nationwide.

There will be a presentation for media and school board followed by a training for school administrators on Oct. 26 at 9 a.m. at City Springs.

Duran will be the featured presenter "to share the program’s successes, instruct how it works and how to implement it in schools to principals, counselors and social workers of the participating schools."

“Many texting programs are designed for students to report safety concerns, but this initiative links them with a licensed mental health expert who can help them work through all types of issues; academics, relationships, substance abuse and more. Youth now have someone to turn to round the clock who can offer them support and resources," said Ellis.

The program was launched in January at several high schools, in both the north and south parts of the district, and will be expanded to 10 more schools: Alpharetta, Banneker, Cambridge, Chattahoochee, Johns Creek, Langston Hughes, Milton, Riverwood, Roswell and Tri-Cities High Schools.

“Text 4 Help’s on-demand mental health support is offered in a modality that is best suited for our students”, said FCS Counseling, Psychological and Social Work Services Executive Director Chelsea Montgomery.

According to Montgomery, “this partnership exemplifies community collaboration at its best, and will help meet the ongoing social and emotional needs of our students.”

In Fulton County, the "Text 4 Help" line is funded by a grant from the Fulton-DeKalb Hospital Authority, an agency that promotes the health of the greater Atlanta community through oversight of the Grady Memorial Hospital Corporation.

"Text 4 Help" is a key resource with suicide prevention.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the "second leading cause of death among teens.

When a school establishes a program, it selects a unique ID code that students can identify with to accompany the phone number. Texts are routed through a cloaking server to ensure anonymity. The response team currently consists of licensed clinicians from CHRIS 180, an organization that contracts with the Fulton County Department of Behavioral Health. Data is analyzed and shared on a quarterly basis," said CHRIS 180 Fulton County Clinical Director Monica McGannon, LCSW.

“CHRIS 180 is a proud partner of the Text 4 Help program. Our licensed clinicians take students’ calls and can be a listening ear when they need to talk or ask a question," she said.

The goal of FCS and Fulton County is "to eventually expand the program to all 19 high schools in the district, as well as introduce the initiative to students in middle school."

Text 4 Help Kickoff and Training will be at City Springs in Meeting Room A, 1 Galambos Way in Sandy Springs.


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