The Alameda Community Assessment Response & Engagement (CARE) Team is set to receive $1.8 million from the California state budget for the 2022-2023 Fiscal Year.
California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill (AB) 179, the Budget Act of 2022, implementing funding for key state priorities. The CARE Team allocation item is under the Health and Human Services section of the bill, authored by Assemblymember Philip Ting (D-San Francisco).
In a press release announcing the state’s decision, the City of Alameda thanked Assemblymember Mia Bonta and State Senator Nancy Skinner. “The city thanks Assemblymember Mia Bonta for championing funding for this critical project as part of the budget process,” the press release stated. “The city is grateful for the support of this program by Senator Skinner as chair of the budget committee.”
The $1.8 million in state revenues coming to the City of Alameda will fund the CARE Team pilot program for the upcoming year. At its April 19 meeting, the City Council approved a plan to extend the CARE Team pilot program to June 23, 2023 (“CARE Team Pilot Program Extended by City Council,” April 27; https://alamedasun.com/news/care-team-pilot-program-extended-city-council).
The CARE Team offers an alternative to police intervention when emergency dispatchers receive calls regarding people dealing with mental health issues. Instead, the CARE Team, which consists of Alameda Fire Department (AFD) personnel and case workers from Alameda Family Services (AFS), interacts with the person in need.
The CARE Team offers five different options of support to clients (people with mental health issues). First, a medical assessment by the team paramedic which leads to a medical referral or ambulance transport if medical care is needed. Second, transport to a friend, family member, pharmacy or transportation system (BART or bus stop). Third, a safety plan that allows the client to remain at the scene if they are deemed not dangerous to themselves or others. Fourth, being placed on a 5150 or 5585 (for minors) psychiatric hold if the client is deemed a danger to themselves or others. Lastly, a referral to AFS for case management services.
In July, AFD personnel gave a six-month CARE Team update to the city officials (“Academic Report Praises Fire Department’s CARE Team,” August 25; https://alamedasun.com/news/academic-report-praises-fire-department%E2%8...). The CARE Team began on Dec. 16, 2021. In the six-month time period ending on June 16, the CARE Team received 529 calls for service and the team responded to 376 of those calls. Of those 376 responses, the CARE team engaged with clients on 290 occasions. Of the 290 engagements, the client was referred to case workers from Alameda Family Services 204 times.
As a result, the CARE Team received praise in an academic journal for its reduction in EMS transports to emergency departments.
“Although early on in implementation, the initial outcomes appear promising for alternative response and navigation options for people experiencing behavioral health emergencies that would be safer than an emergency department or jail,” wrote Tim Hong, MD, in an article in the Journal for Emergency Medical Services on Aug. 18. “Additionally, local emergency departments experiencing a lower burden of transported behavioral health patients can free up precious resources to meet other departmental demands.”
The implementation of the CARE Team came in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the arrest of Mali Watkins in Alameda in 2020. As a result, the City Council created a community-led police reform and racial equity steering committee to advise council on how to make Alameda more equitable and diverse. One of the committee’s recommendations was to shift responsibility for mental health crisis responses from Alameda Police Department to non-police programs. At its March 16 meeting, the Alameda City Council unanimously approved moving forward with this program (“Council Ponders Police Reform,” March 10, 2021; https://alamedasun.com/news/council-ponders-police-reform).