The Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office, in collaboration with Tompkins County Whole Health, has launched a novel co-response team known as C.A.R.E. (Crisis Alternative Response & Engagement), which began operations on August 30, 2023. The C.A.R.E. team, a pioneering initiative in crisis response, pairs a specially trained deputy sheriff with a mental health clinician in a dedicated vehicle, aiming to provide a more effective and compassionate response to individuals experiencing mental, behavioral, or emotional crises.
This innovative unit’s primary mission is to deliver comprehensive mental health services, offering alternatives to emergency petitions based on clinical assessments. The team aims to facilitate access to mental health resources, increase community awareness of available services, divert individuals from the criminal justice system when mental health issues are the primary factor, and reduce the time patrol officers spend handling such cases. The C.A.R.E. team responds to a variety of situations, including those involving mental health issues, drug dependency, homelessness, and domestic abuse, and also offers follow-up services within 48 hours of initial contact. Operating Monday through Friday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, the team has already made a significant impact, responding to over 45 calls and conducting more than 15 follow-ups.
In addition to immediate response activities, the C.A.R.E. team has engaged extensively with the community, holding over 30 meetings with stakeholder organizations, community partners, schools, and local law enforcement agencies. The Sheriff’s Office is developing a dashboard to provide the community with valuable data on the program’s effectiveness and to identify service gaps contributing to crises. The initiative has been met with gratitude from the Whole Health Department and the Department of Emergency Response for their vital roles in the program’s inception and ongoing improvement. The Sheriff’s Office also thanks community members who have shared their positive experiences with the C.A.R.E. team, further highlighting the program’s positive impact in Tompkins County.
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