Smooch partners with non-profit to help teens get birth control, sexual health advice

Montreal startup Smooch is partnering up with a local sexual health advocacy group to create SextEd, a new texting helpline for youth seeking information about sex and dating.

Smooch provides the tech for the completely anonymous texting platform, which supplies accurate and non-judgmental answers to any questions young people may otherwise feel uncomfortable asking.

According to SextEd’s website, marginalized youth may have difficulty asking certain questions in classrooms. Their team provides “comprehensive, accurate and non-judgmental answers” that include links to expert advice and local health services.

According to Smooch, non-profits connecting confidentially with teens with sensitive needs via messaging appears to be a growing trend.

The tech startup has also recently finished a platform for a Texas-based non-profit Jane’s Due Process (JDP) to help teenagers access birth control, abortions and legal advice via a secure, confidential, messaging hotline. With JDP, Smooch set up an SMS hotline to securely route messages to its distributed team of trained volunteers at scale while masking contact information to preserve anonymity.

“Having met with the amazing JDP team, I quickly understood how important security and privacy are to the young girls who are in need of the advice,” said Mike Gozzo, Chief Technology Officer at Smooch. “I knew with our platform that we could create a totally secure solution allowing any number of young women to simply send an anonymous SMS message and receive the help they need. Already, the number of people contacting JDP via messaging far outweighs those using the hotline so we’re incredibly excited to see that it’s having a positive impact.”

Jane’s Due Process was originally created as a response to a Texas law prohibiting girls under 18 from getting an abortion without parental consent or permission from a judge. The not-for-profit organization provides free attorneys to counsel minors who need a judicial bypass due to a variety of situations, ranging from having abusive parents to having no parents at all. It also helps them access birth control at federally-funded clinics.

In the early days, JDP’s operations effectively centred around a single, cell phone-operated helpline for pregnant teens in need of confidential advice. Now JDP is partnering with omnichannel messaging specialists Smooch.

“The reality is that most often teens text rather than call, and it was essential they were able to communicate with us in the same way,” said Eleanor Grano, a community outreach worker at Jane’s Due Process. “We found that directing these messages to our volunteers securely, confidentially and at scale needed expertise and technology that was hard to find and prohibitively expensive.”

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