© 2024 KVPR | Valley Public Radio - White Ash Broadcasting, Inc. :: 89.3 Fresno / 89.1 Bakersfield
89.3 Fresno | 89.1 Bakersfield
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Kern Crisis Hotline sees uptick in callers after adopting 988 

A close-up of hands holding a cell phone.
Priscilla du Preez
As of July 16, people can dial the simple three digit number 988 for help during a mental health emergency.

A simplified mental health hotline – 988 – is seeing an uptick in callers in Kern County, one of only two in the state that operates its own call center.

About 3,000 people call the Kern Crisis Hotline each month in need of mental health services. That number is expected to climb by a third, thanks to the easy-to-dial 988.

“988 has been developed to simplify, solidify and create better access for suicide prevention hotline,” said Stacy Kuwahara, Director of Kern County Behavioral Health Services.

Not only has the hotline seen more callers, but the people who do call tend to be worse off, she adds.

One recent caller was standing on the edge of a building, contemplating jumping. Another had just taken an overdose and regretted it.

Both survived with help from crisis line operators.

“These are stories of our 988 hotline staff literally saving lives and doing work that prevents terrible things from happening,” she said.

The service is particularly important in rural areas where there are disproportionately few mental health professionals, she said. Because the county runs its own call center, operators are more attuned to the services that are available and better able to follow-up.

“Our staff who are answering the calls, they know our community; they know our resources; they know the things that are happening here locally,” she said. “I think that kind of local connection, ideally, makes that call quality even better.”

Joshua Yeager is a Report For America corps reporter covering Kern County for KVPR.

Joshua Yeager is a Report For America corps reporter covering Kern County for KVPR.