Family Connection praises ‘TXT 4 HELP’ update

Published 5:27 pm Tuesday, March 20, 2012

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Kids facing emergency situations will have an easier way to get the help they need after the National Safe Place organization recently updated its TXT 4 HELP program, said a coordinator with Saginaw’s Family Connection non-profit organization.

During the week of March 18-24, Family Connection is celebrating National Safe Place Week, during which Family Connection is working to spread the word about the Safe Place program.

Safe Place shelters, which often include libraries, fire and police departments and businesses, are designated with yellow “Safe Place” signs. Safe Places offer help to youth facing crises ranging from domestic abuse to bullying.

Although the nationwide TXT 4 HELP program has been active for a few years, March 20 marked a major change in the program, said Family Connection Safe Place Coordinator Carol Williams.

Through the TXT 4 HELP program, teens and children facing crisis situations can text “help” and their current location to 69866. The automated system will respond with the location and contact information of the Safe Place location closest to them.

The automated response will also prompt users to ‘reply with 2CHAT for more help.’ Once a user replies with 2CHAT, they will be able to text interactively with a Master’s level mental health professional.

“No matter where they are in the country, kids can text that number and it will direct them to the nearest Safe Place,” Williams said.

Responding to the ‘Text to chat’ message will connect the child with a live counselor, who will work to address the child’s crisis and direct them to safety.

Williams said Family Connection operates 62 Safe Places in Shelby County, Hoover and Irondale. She said she has seen Safe Place use increase significantly over the past few years.

“It really seems to have been on the rise over the last few years,” Williams said. “I’m not sure if it’s better education (about the program), or if kids are just facing more issues than they have in the past.”