A 24-hour Text-A-Tip service, launched March 2, enables teens to anonymously reach out to a counselor and receive an immediate reply. To participate, teens can send the message "224HELP" or the Spanish variation, "224AYUDAME" to the number 274637.
A teen reporting concerns about a friend need not worry their identity will be disclosed, since the system renders texts untraceable.
"Before the text comes to (the counselors) it goes through a cloaking server where the texter's number is made completely anonymous … even though we can communicate back and forth," said Andy Duran, executive director of LEAD, or Linking Efforts Against Drugs, the Lake Forest-based nonprofit that provides the service.
LEAD focuses on promoting healthy family relationships and preventing alcohol and drug use and other risky behaviors. The agency first launched its Text-A-Tip program in the Lake Forest and Lake Bluff communities in early 2014 in response to a number of suicides.
The program's counselors are licensed and certified mental health professionals from The Child, Adolescent and Family Recovery Center in Lake Bluff who understand the needs in the immediate community.
During its first year, the Lake Forest and Lake Bluff Text-A-Tip had nearly 100 calls, most coming from callers concerned about themselves, Duran said.
Response team members rotate according to an on-call schedule and are responsible for addressing each communication appropriately and reporting issues whenever necessary. In the case of life-threatening circumstances, emergency responders will be notified.
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