Starting Thursday, Alameda will have a new tool to deal with people in crisis.
The city is launching its Community Assessment Response and Engagement (CARE) team – unarmed paramedics specially trained to deal with people in the throes of a mental crisis.
They won't be responding in a squad car or an ambulance. They'll be in a gray SUV.
Alameda Fire Department Chief Nick Luby said nine of his paramedics joined the pilot program after receiving specific training to handle crisis interventions and mental health evaluations.
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"We are the first fire department in the county that has been approved to be able to issue psychiatric holds," Luby said.
Over in Antioch, the city council voted Tuesday to move forward with a similar pilot program that also goes by the same name.
"In some cases, calls related to mental health crisis can lead to escalation just by the mere presence of police officers, so we’re trying to minimize that as much as possible," Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe said.
The goal is to send CARE to many calls that previously went to police.
According to the program’s development report, the Antioch CARE team will respond to calls for things such as public intoxication, panhandling, disorderly teens, family disputes and wellness checks.
Thorpe said this will lessen the workload for the city’s officers.
"We’re pretty excited that this will help our police officers be really focused on the job at hand: fighting crime in our community," Thorpe said.
The help doesn’t stop after the CARE team is done responding to a call.
That’s when Alameda Family Services steps in. Case managers and licensed clinicians can help those who need wraparound social services.