Charleston Company Awarded National Contract to Answer Suicide Lifeline Chats and Texts

First Choice Services Hiring 45 New Staff


First Choice Services, a Charleston-based non-profit that operates 15 helplines focusing on addiction, mental health, and social services, has been awarded a contract to act as a backup center for chats and texts to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. This contract creates 45 new local jobs, which the company is currently filling.  

Contacts to the line are projected to rise sharply after July when the new 988 National Suicide and Crisis Line is activated. While the previous access number, 1-800-273-TALK, will remain in service, the three-digit 988 alternative will provide quick access to the same line. The new number will also be broadly marketed for mental health distress and crisis. While Lifeline contacts have been steadily increasing, the broader scope of 988 services, its access by call, text, or chat, and the simple number are expected to result in a dramatic increase in the volume of Lifeline contacts throughout the country. This new number comes as experts warn of increasing rates of emotional distress and suicidal ideation, particularly among youth. 

In 2020, there were 2.4 million contacts to the Lifeline. Increasingly, people prefer communicating through chat and text. In April, the National Lifeline received 2,697 chats and 254 texts each day. Lifeline crisis counselors at First Choice Services will respond to approximately 240 chats and texts per day. While First Choice Services crisis counselors already answer phone calls from within the state to the National Lifeline, the new employees will field the overflow chats and texts from all over the country. 

First Choice Services CEO, Lata Menon, says the contract award reflects confidence in the company’s services. She said, “It was an honor to be selected as a national chat and text backup center. We handle over 115,000 calls, texts, and chats annually among our helplines, and that number continues to grow. Our Suicide Lifeline program has one of the highest in-state answer rates in the country, meaning people who call from West Virginia usually reach a local crisis counselor, rather than someone out of state. We have worked hard over the last two years to be prepared for the increase in calls we expect with the launch of 988 next month. This new program couldn’t have come at a better time as we have added extensive training to ensure our ability to handle increasingly complex mental health needs by phone, text, or chat.”

Anyone feeling depressed, suicidal, or needing emotional support can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK.