BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – Stay at home orders and shutdowns have caused many people to feel alone. According to the CDC, more than 40% of adults in the U.S. say the pandemic has seriously impacted their mental health. The Latino COVID Task Force has set up COVID testing sites and resources to benefit Kern County during this pandemic. Now, President of the task force, Jay Tamsi, is taking it a step further with a COVID coping hotline.
“We wanted people to feel like they can call us they have someone to talk to, we have mental health experts,” Tamsi said. “We’ve really seen folks call in who are depressed, who are fearful, who have anxiety and they just need someone to talk to and thats what we’re here for.”
It gives people in Kern County a direct line to call for resources or emotional support.
“It’s not a 1-800 number not a 1-888 number,” Tamsi said. “It is a 661 number we selected as a task force. We wanted folks in kern county to know that we are here for them. That we want them to call into a local number. Get people that will answer the phones, not an answering machine.”
Tamsi and his team launched this hotline in the middle of December. It’s already received more than 800 calls.
“Our resources in the community whether it’s testing sites or financial issues with their employer or if they have questions about food stamps we can help them with whatever they need,” said Bianca Torres, head operator of the hotline.
Once you dial the hotline – one of three trained operators will answer the call on their cell phone. They answer nonstop Monday through Friday from 9a.m. to 5p.m. Even if you call after hours, an operator will call you back within 24 hours. The hotline also offers an optional 30-minute phone call with a certified counselor for anyone who needs additional help.
“I always get the question ‘Am I crazy?’ No you’re not, you just need to talk about these issues,” Torres said. “For stuff like that I refer them to a counselor for a deeper conversation.”
Vice president-elect Kamala Harris heard about this hotline and the work of the task force. Tamsi spoke with her Chief of Staff to discuss mirroring his organization on a national level.
“We were able to flesh those ideas out to her staff. Senator Harris was very impressed with what we had to say. We hope to see a United States Latino Task Force.”
The hotline’s number is 661-525-5900. The CDC also has additional resources for emotional support here.