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Carriers Waive Charges for Crisis Text Line

The move also means that the text messages won't show up in billing records, something that could have alerted abusive spouses or family members.

Asa Mathat

It pays to be Richard Branson.

That’s the lesson that Crisis Text Line founder Nancy Lublin said she learned this month. The British billionaire — a supporter of her nonprofit — wrote to the major U.S. carriers last month on her behalf, asking them to waive charges for sending messages to a crisis hotline (and the charges for the hotline itself).

Within hours, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile had signed on.

Not only that, but the carriers also agreed to make sure the texts don’t show up in billing records — something that could potentially alert abusive spouses or family members.

“It’s going to save us hundreds of thousands of dollars and make our texters safer,” Lublin told Re/code. “It’s amazing.”

Launched August 1, 2013, the crisis line has, to date, handled more than seven million text messages, some 20,000 queries per day.

As the name suggests, the crisis line is there around the clock with counselors trained to provide assistance to those with any number of issues from abuse to coming out to dealing with suicidal feelings. It’s designed to take the long-held telephone-hotline medium into a new era, reaching young people who may be more comfortable texting than talking on the phone.

Branson became a supporter of the hotline earlier this year after hearing Lublin speak about it. During his youth, Branson himself helped start a hotline in London.

Lublin, who runs and launched Crisis Text Line, spoke about that work at Dive Into Mobile in 2013.

Update, 1:50 p.m. PT: AT&T says it is also on board and it will waive charges and ensure that text messages sent to Crisis Text Line don’t appear in call records.

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