CARE Team Pilot Program Extended by City Council

Alameda Fire Department--Alameda Fire Department Chief Nick Luby gave the City Council an update of the Alameda CARE Team pilot program at the April 19 council meeting.

CARE Team Pilot Program Extended by City Council

At its April 19 meeting, the Alameda City Council approved a plan to extend the Alameda Community Assessment Response and Engagement (CARE) Team pilot program to June 23, 2023.

The program 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, a 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.

At the meeting, AFD Chief Nick Luby gave council an update of the work the team has done in the first two months of the program (Dec. 16, 2021, to Feb. 16, 2022). In this time frame, there were 92 requests for service with 68 resulting in interactions with the CARE Team. Of the 68 interactions: 28 people were referred to AFS for case management services, 12 were transported to a different location, 13 were placed on a 5150 or 5585 hold, four were transported to a medical facility, two were evaluated and left at the scene and nine refused service.

Of the 24 other calls, eight times the CARE Team was unable to locate the subject and 16 calls were canceled en route.

Luby told council that data collected from the first two months of the program showed signs that two of the CARE Team’s main goals were being accomplished. In the presentation, Luby said two of the goals of the CARE Team were to reduce the use of AFD ambulances for 5150/5585 transports and reduce impacts on local hospitals and facilities by reducing transportation of clients.

In the first two months of the pilot program, 26 percent of the 92 calls have led to AFD transports. In the two months prior, 100 percent of the 45 dispatch calls led to AFD transports. Also, just 23 percent of the of the 92 calls led to transports to medical facilities, whereas in the two months prior, all 45 calls led to transports to medical facilities.

One of the alternatives to a medical facility transport the pilot program uses is a transport to the Village of Love. The center is an Alameda-based community non-profit that assists unsheltered or transitional housing individuals and families connect to resources and services. The center is located at 431 Stardust Place.

The city has contracted Beyond Lucid Technologies, a Concord-based software technology company that specializes in data collection for EMS and public health organizations, to help them better track the metrics and data points of the calls they receive and the outcomes of each interaction.

In response to the death of George Floyd and Alameda police interaction with Mali Watkins (“Arrest Raises Questions for APD,” June 7, 2020), City Manager Eric Levitt established a community-led Steering Committee on Police Reform and Racial Equity to provide recommendations designed to restructure the delivery of law enforcement services. Among the committee’s recommendations was restructuring the methods for responding to mental health emergencies. Levitt directed AFD to proceed with CARE Team pilot program. The city reached an agreement with AFS to join the pilot program on Dec. 8, 2021.