Alameda CARE Team Launches Before the Winter Holidays

Alameda CARE Team Launches Before the Winter Holidays

The City of Alameda announced it is launching a pilot program that intends to change procedures when responding to calls for service involving individuals experiencing a mental health crisis.

Starting Dec. 16, the Alameda CARE Team (Community Assessment Response & Engagement), led by the Alameda Fire Department (AFD), will provide a 24/7 alternative response to nonviolent, noncriminal individuals facing a mental health crisis.

• If you are experiencing an emergency, always call 911.
• If you are in crisis or see someone who may be in crisis, call 911 or call 510-337-8340 and ask for the CARE Team to respond.

When the CARE Team is dispatched, first responders will arrive in a low-profile program-branded vehicle outfitted for this work. The CARE Team will triage and assess clients in order to assist them with navigating the best path forward in obtaining needed services.

Prior to launching, nine AFD staff members received program specific mental health responder training and crisis intervention behavioral health training. These initial nine AFD personnel have been assigned to this pilot program and will be serving in the role of CARE Team paramedic. They will be partnered with firefighter emergency medical technicians (EMTs) when serving the community.

Alameda Family Services has been contracted by the City to provide case consultation for the field units, clinical field response when needed, and case management/follow-up support for Care Team clients.

Developing options to shift certain responsibility for managing mental health crises from the Alameda Police Department (APD) to non-police agencies is a recommendation of the community-led committees on police reform and racial equity. At its March 16 meeting, the Alameda City Council unanimously approved moving forward with this program and a series of recommendations (“Council Ponders Police Reform” March 10). The Alameda CARE Team is also supported by Alameda County Behavioral Health Care Services and the Alameda County Emergency Medical Services Agency.

A celebration of the Alameda CARE Team will take place in early January. More information will be shared on the City’s website at

The request for a non-APD response team for mental health calls began after police bodycam footage of the detainment of Mali Watkins outside his residence was released on June 5, while nationwide protests to the George Floyd killing by Minneapolis police officers were ongoing.

City Council responded by forming a community-led committee to review and offer recommendations on police reform and racial equity in Alameda on June 29, 2020. One of their recommendations was to unbundle APD services.

Calls for an APD alternative were heightened after the death of Mario Gonzales on April 19, while in police custody (“Suspect Dies in Police Custody” April 20). APD responded to reports that Mario Arenales Gonzalez, 26, was suspected of theft and under the influence of a controlled substance. Three responding APD officers got into an altercation with Gonzalez, who was unarmed, and he died later that day.

At a town hall meeting on April 30, City Manager Eric Levitt said the city was exploring alternatives to police response as recommended by the committee (“Townhall Discuss Gonzalez’s Death” May 4).

“The council is talking about an alternative mental health approach and we are actively working on it as a staff, not only as a long-term plan, but an interim plan,” said Levitt.

Similar programs have been implanted in Eugene, Ore. and discussed throughout the Bay Area.