COLUMBUS -- State agencies and mental health advocates are hoping to raise awareness of free counseling available via text messaging to residents dealing with depression, drug addiction and other issues.
The Crisis Text Line has been available in the state for a couple of years, notably in Stark County, where local officials have been promoting its use.
Users can text the phrase "4hope" to 741741 and receive a response from a trained crisis counselor within five minutes. The services are offered around the clock, free of charge, and users remain anonymous.
"This is a confidential, private way to communicate whatever crisis is going on with you," said Nancy Lublin, founder of the Crisis Text Line. " It's not only free -- they don't charge a texting fee -- we don't show up on bills."
The Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities is working with the state departments of mental health and addiction services and developmental disabilities and others to market the service.
Backers say the Crisis Text Line provides an option to those who don't want to use existing voice hotlines when they need help.
About 1,400 unique users have had about 2,000 conversations in Stark County since 2014, when local officials began promoting the texting line, said John Aller, executive director of Stark County Mental Health & Addiction Recovery.
"When we piloted the program two years ago, it made sense to connect community members as needed to resources on a platform that they're comfortable using -- specifically young people who may not make a phone call to get help," he said. "While not every one of us who text for support about our pain and struggles, it makes all the differences for those who do."
Marc Kovac is the Dix capital bureau chief. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.