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Bill would fund National Parent and Youth Helpline

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Suzanne Potter

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(California New Service) The new National Parent & Youth Helpline has already taken 6,700 calls, texts and live chats since its inception in January, and now the U.S. House of Representatives is considering a bill to fund it permanently.

Rep. Norma Torres, D-Calif., introduced the bill last Friday.

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Lisa Pion-Berlin, president and CEO of Parents Anonymous, which runs the helpline, noted how the service has been helping.

"We have calls about gun violence. We have calls about suicide. We have calls about stress," Pion-Berlin outlined. "We have calls about kids' learning challenges. We have kids who feel lonely and depressed. We know youth suicide is up 20 percent."

The nation's more than 174 million parents and youths up to age 25 can call or text the helpline at 855-427-2736 to reach a trained counselor for help with emotional issues. People can also join the live chat on the website 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Pion-Berlin emphasized the goal is to offer online, weekly, evidence-based emotional support groups to those in need around the country.

"They build what we call protective factors," Pion-Berlin explained. "That's resilience, social support, that's helping people deal with their underlying emotional issues, addresses substance abuse, domestic violence, and helps children flourish."

The bill would allocate $20 million a year to the program. So far it has attracted endorsements from the nonprofits Parents Anonymous, Zero to Three, and the Child Welfare League of America.