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Gaggle and AWS Collaborate to Create Mental Health Hotline that Connects K-12 Students to Trained Crisis Counselors

ReachOut Provides In-The-Moment Support to Students Through Phone Call, SMS Text, or Web Chat

According to the latest research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 percent of teens reported having seriously considered suicide, and nine percent have attempted suicide. U.S. schools are doing their best to support students, but with staffing shortages and additional challenges exacerbated by the widespread disruption in teaching and learning, the education community needs solutions to help with recovery.

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Gaggle, the leader in helping K-12 districts manage student safety on school-provided technology, is working with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to address the issue by providing in-the-moment support for students experiencing mental health crises including anxiety, depression, bullying, abuse, and suicide ideation. This effort combines the advantages of Amazon Connect, an easy-to-use, cost-effective, cloud contact center, with Gaggle’s ReachOut, a 24/7 mental health crisis hotline for schools.

“We’re excited to work with AWS to provide convenient access to our mental health hotline to thousands of students nationwide,” said Jeff Patterson, CEO of Gaggle. “We created ReachOut to provide immediate support to students who not only need to be listened to but also advised by trained coaches who can handle crisis situations, hopefully preventing things from getting worse.” He continued, “At Gaggle, we want to do everything we can to help kids who are struggling. This new hotline is another tool we are offering to do just this.”

ReachOut is designed for immediate support for students experiencing any mental and emotional crisis. Students can communicate with a crisis counselor in whatever ways they are most comfortable – by SMS text, web-based chat or phone calls.

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According to an Education Week analysis, nearly 40 percent of all school districts nationally, enrolling 5.4 million students, did not have a school psychologist in 2020. ReachOut aims to be a partner to school districts to increase access to mental health services to deescalate situations by providing immediate support to help students positively navigate the challenges they are facing.

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“Schools need partners that can help us support our students in the moments they need it most, which is often after-hours when school staff may not be readily accessible,” said Dr. Karen A. Fildes, Director of Technology and Communications for New Fairfield Public Schools/Town of New Fairfield. “ReachOut is a gamechanger in crisis support for our students, particularly in a time when it is needed more than ever. In those times of crisis, having someone to reach out to that can listen and direct students to appropriate services will save lives.”

ReachOut provides help to both students as well as concerned parents in a variety of different languages. Amazon Lex, a fully managed artificial intelligence (AI) service with advanced natural language models, enables conversations to be translated between 75 languages using chatbots.

“Access to mental health services are critical to overall health, safety, and academic success for students across the nation,” said Kim Majerus, Vice President, US Education, State and Local Government at AWS. “Teachers and education leaders have long recognized the increased need for more mental health resources for both immediate and long-term care, and Gaggle’s ReachOut can quickly connect students to trained crisis counselors—whether help is needed inside or outside of the classroom, and in various languages. We are proud to collaborate with Gaggle as the organization scales access to mental health professionals for students at schools without a counselor, when school psychologists are overwhelmed, or during times outside of school hours.”

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