BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Messages of encouragement adorn the interior of the Kern Crisis Hot Line center, serving as a reminder to the operators who answer thousands of calls, just how important their job is.

At the door that leads to the office of Ellen Eggert, Program Support Supervisor for the Kern Behavioral Health and Recovery Services Crisis Hot Line, a life-size cut-out of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.

The fun and lively environment is one that Eggert says is crucial to have for the operators who answer about 3,000 crisis calls every single month, a figure that continues to climb.

“Some callers we are kind of their lifeline,” Eggert said. “They don’t have a lot of people they can call in the middle of the night and they know we are going to listen non-judgmentally and help them thru their crisis.”

More than one week since a simplified mental health hotline — 988 — was adopted nationwide, calls from Kern County have been steady. Kern County is one of only two counties in the state that operates its own call center.

“Sometimes there’s nothing going on,” Eggert said. “Maybe one or two calls in an hour, other times there might be 12 or 13 calls in an hour, it is unpredictable, we have to make sure we are always staffed.”

Eggert says calls are up about 15%, most callers are between the ages of 18 to 35 and 45 to 64.
A text option is also available that is answered by professional counselors.

“We are in the process of setting up a text and chat option,” Eggert said. “Being here and being able to text and chat, especially with our younger generation, we are expecting an uptick.”

The service is particularly important in rural areas where there are disproportionately few mental health professionals, Eggert adds. Because the county runs its own call center, operators are more attuned to the services that are available and better able to follow up as well as ensure a better quality of service

“If you just need someone to talk to, resources,” Eggert said. “We will talk to you and figure out the best way without telling you what to do.”