KANAWHA COUNTY, WV (WOWK) – When trying to get help, knowing where to start can be the hardest part. That’s the reasoning behind Project HELP which launched Monday in Kanawha County.

The project is a collaboration between WVDII, Synergy Health and First Choice Services, which operates HELP4WV.

Project HELP launched on Monday and was designed to increase assistance and support to Kanawha County persons contacting HELP4WV, West Virginia’s information and referral crisis line for those in need of mental health and/or substance abuse treatment. HELP4WV is operated by First Choice Services.

“Connecting callers in need to a Peer Recovery Coach – someone with personal lived addiction and recovery experience, is a great way to offer additional support to those seeking treatment,” state First Choice Services CEO, Lata Menon, in a press release.

Callers seeking help can simply dial 1-844-HELP4WV and talk with someone who will help them find access to the treatment that best fits their needs. Project HELP allow callers seeking all pathways of recovery to connect directly and immediately with a Peer Recovery Support Specialist (PRSS).

The PRSS will then work directly with callers to connect them with treatment providers in Kanawha County. Treatment will include both abstinence-based and medically assisted therapies based upon individual needs.

“This will really give someone who is struggling with active addiction the opportunity to get into treatment quickly and talk to someone who understands,” said Dr. Susan Bissett, president of the West Virginia Drug Intervention Institute.

Dr. Bissett says the hope is that by connecting callers to someone who has been through the same struggles before, that people will be more likely to enter treatment quickly and maintain recovery.

In 2019, Help4WV, the Mountain State’s information and referral crisis line for those in need of mental health or substance abuse treatment — took more than 11,000 calls. Close to 1,500 of those were from Kanawha County.

“You might not know whether abstinence or medically assistance treatment — or maybe even understand the options to recovery,” explained Bissett in an interview with 13 News Reporter Lily Bradley.

The WVDII is based in Kanawha County at the University of Charleston, so Project HELP will be a pilot program based in Kanawha County. Depending on the initial pilot project, if they see a need in other counties they’ll look to expand the program.

The launch of the project comes in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic. Overall hotline calls are up across the country.

“Anytime that you have the job loss numbers that we’ve had and the economy struggles that we’ve had — you see an uptick in addiction during those times,” she said. “So it’s really crucial. You know, these services we’re really important but they are even more crucial right now.”