The National Eating Disorders Association reportedly fired human staff and volunteers for its telephone helpline, and is offering an AI chatbot.

An eating disorder nonprofit is shutting down its helpline and reportedly firing staffers.
The National Eating Disorders Association is planning to transition to an AI chatbot.
Staff claims that the firing is retaliation for successfully unionizing earlier this year.

The largest nonprofit organization supporting people with eating disorders is firing human staff and volunteers for its telephone helpline, NPR reported. The helpline will be shut down and the organization will transition to an AI chatbot named Tessa, a spokesperson for the National Eating Disorder Association confirmed in a statement to Insider.

“We are adding Tessa as a new opportunity and ending the Helpline program, but bear in mind these two services are NOT comparable,” the statement said. “It is a completely different program offering and was borne out of the need to adapt to the changing needs and expectations of our community.”

Staff who are part of the Helpline Associates United at NEDA said in a Twitter statement that they were told that they would be fired and replaced with a chatbot on June 1. The staff members won federal recognition for their union on March 17, according to the statement, and wrote that two weeks after the election to form a union, they were told they would lose their jobs.

The NEDA helpline had six paid staffers, NPR reported, and was also worked by up to 200 volunteers at any given time.

When Insider called the helpline, an automated voice message said it was no longer accepting calls. People can still text NEDA to 741741 to text with a volunteer at the Crisis Text Line.

Tessa is a chatbot that is focused on mental health and eating disorder prevention, according to its website. It originally launched in 2021, a NEDA spokesperson said.

“Please note that Tessa does not replace therapy nor the NEDA Helpline, but is always available to provide additional support when needed,” Tessa’s website says. “Tessa is not equipped to provide crisis support, but she will provide crisis resources when prompted.”

The helpline, which launched in 1999, served 69,718 individuals and families last year, the NEDA spokesperson said.

But there were gaps in the service, as a number of people reached out on weekends and after-hours, meaning there was often a days-long wait for callers to …read more

Source:: Business Insider


Helpline workers for the National Eating Disorder Association say they are being replaced by AI

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