New W.Va. Stress hotline 877-HELP304 available

The hotline is open 24 hours a day for anyone dealing with stress.
The hotline is open 24 hours a day for anyone dealing with stress.(Kim Rafferty)
Published: Aug. 10, 2020 at 6:42 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - There’s a brand new hotline in West Virginia for anyone who’s experiencing stress.

“Not everybody’s story is the same,” said crisis counselor Evan Smith.

Smith answers when people need a person to talk with. He can be reached by phone, online chat or text.

Smith’s main job is to listen, problem solve and help with stress management.

“We’ve had a lot of training dealing with what people are going through,” Smith said.

The free, anonymous service is just days old. It’s run by First Choice Services, a call center that also answers 2-1-1 calls and provides other hotline counseling.

The new hotline is funded by federal dollars and administered by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.

“We want to give people a place they can call sort out their feelings, emotions, talk with someone who is completely non-judgmental,” said First Choice Services communication director Sheila Moran.

Studies show it’s something West Virginians may need, created after First Choice Services reported a 15% percent increase in calls to the 2-1-1 hotline related to COVID-19.

A study by the CDC in 2018 cited West Virginia as having the worst mental health of any state, which is another reason for the hotline.

Crisis counselors help by providing information or just listening.

“Say you know I have been drinking a lot more than I used to, and that may not mean they need to go into a treatment facility but may need some solid stress management strategies,” Moran said.

Crisis counselors like Smith can also give information on COVID testing, food pantries, or help with any other assistance at all hours.

“We have found that often we are the very first person they are telling their story to,” Moran said.

Copyright 2020 WSAZ. All rights reserved.

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