Downloadable to Apple and Android smartphones, the My GCAL app connects via text and chat with the confidential Georgia Crisis and Access Line. The hotline is now staffed 24 hours a day with counselors and clinical professionals.
"It's good for all ages, adults too, but young people in particular are reluctant to talk about behavioral health issues," said Rep. Katie Dempsey. "This is a way to explore resources through text with people trained to listen, assess and help someone decide what services they need."
Dempsey and Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, were among the lawmakers who stood with Gov. Brian Kemp and First Lady Marty Kemp as they unveiled the app. The two helped push for funding in the state budget to modernize the 13-year-old GCAL system.
"Our youth prefer to text instead of calling. They also may be in a crisis situation where they can't call," Hufstetler said. "This just makes our crisis hotline more accessible, particularly to our younger population."
Staffers at the center field about 700 to 1,000 calls a day, according to the Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities. Commissioner Judy Fitzgerald said Thursday it's for people who are struggling and those with friends who are struggling, in addition to a source for urgent care.
"Is there a crisis going on, or is someone under threat? Or is someone feeling sad or being bullied?" Dempsey said. "Responders are there for any of those conversations that are acute in the minds of young people who don't know who to talk to."
Kemp called the My GCAL app an "innovative tool" to address what parents, students and educators have convinced him is a growing mental health crisis in schools. His budget this year includes increased funding for intervention and school security measures.
Anyone in Georgia can contact GCAL for help for themselves or on behalf of someone else at 800-715-4225 or via the app. Callers in crisis can speak with live clinicians trained in de-escalation and, when needed, mobile crisis response teams can be dispatched. Information specialists also can provide referrals for treatment in a caller’s area.