Parents set texting, computer limits in digital age

Dylan Herina 13, uses his cell phone to text as his mother and father, Beth and Peter, sit in another part of their family room in their home in Ringwood, N.J. / Rich Schultz

Licensed counselors are now responding to students seeking help in under three minutes now that a texting initiative has expanded to all Fulton County Schools.

Fulton County Behavioral Health and Fulton County Schools continue to work together to serve students in crisis or those who want to help friends or classmates anonymously, stated officials. Text 4 Help, which originally served five Fulton County High Schools, has been expanded to all 17 high schools operated by Fulton County Schools.

Text 4 Help, formerly known as Text-A-Tip, began as a pilot program in January 2018 under the leadership of Fulton County Commissioner Bob Ellis and was supported by the Fulton County Board of Commissioners. Ellis introduced the initiative and secured funding from the Fulton-DeKalb Hospital Authority, which is now funding the program for the second year.

“When I launched the Text 4 Help initiative in 2018, I knew it would be a great resource for our teens who want to talk to someone but also remain anonymous,” said Ellis. “This program continues to grow and for every child that our clinicians help through a tough time, we know we have potentially saved a life.”

Fulton County Opioid Coordinator Lynnette Allen added, “Text 4 Help is a great tool for the students to use because it’s easy and it’s also a part of the everyday culture of teens. The students can receive instant support and/or answers to questions without judgment. The program is free for students, and they have access to a licensed, clinical professional 24/7.”

Fulton County was the first county in the southeast to offer the program. Other texting programs exist, but Text 4 Help is the only one in the region with licensed clinicians who respond 24/7. During the initial quarter of the Text 4 Help pilot program, 26 users sent a total of 297 text messages. As the program expanded into additional schools during the fourth quarter of 2018, 65 users sent 455 text messages to the clinicians.

All Clinicians answered a variety of texts from teens who addressed subjects such as bullying, substance abuse, relationships and academic pressure. Calls were answered on an average of 2.5 minutes with a response or linkage to a resource that was convenient for the students to reach.

Text 4 Help allows high school students to connect anonymously through text messages to a licensed mental health professional for resources and referrals. The text line is available 24 hours a day/7 days a week. Text 4 Help is managed through Fulton County’s Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities with its contracted service provider, which is CHRIS 180.

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