NEWPORT NEWS—The City of Newport News has launched an innovative new program designed to provide crisis intervention services to individuals in the city. The Community Assistance Response (CARE) program is the result of a partnership between the Newport News Fire Department (NNFD), the Newport News Police Department (NNPD), and the Hampton-Newport News Community Services Board (H-NNCSB). Members of the CARE team will provide initial support to those experiencing mental or behavioral health issues within Newport News.
“The lack of mental health crisis services across the country has resulted in law enforcement officers serving as first responders during most incidents,” said Newport News Mayor McKinley L. Price. “In Newport News, we are changing the way our city responds. The CARE program will keep people with mental illness out of jail and get them on the path to support and recovery. The partnership model we have created is truly collaborative and person-centered, laying the foundation for sustainable change in the lives of those who are served.”
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in twenty adults in the United States experiences serious mental illness each year. One in four people with a serious mental illness has been arrested by the police at some point in their lifetime. Crisis Intervention Teams like the CARE program are advanced, community-based approaches to improve the outcomes of these encounters.
When the Newport News Emergency Communications Center receives a call for service indicating a need for crisis intervention or other mental health supports, they can now dispatch the CARE team. The team consists of a Newport News Fire Department paramedic and a qualified mental health provider from the Hampton-Newport News Community Services Board. The CARE team will respond in a marked vehicle and will assess the individual to provide necessary interventions and support. A Newport News police officer will also respond to ensure the safety of those involved but will not serve as a lead.
“Helping individuals with mental illness and behavioral health struggles is one of the greatest challenges faced by law enforcement,” said Newport News Chief of Police Steve Drew. “The CARE program allows officers to take a step back during these calls—as long as there is no risk of harm to that individual or others—and connects them with first responders who are better equipped to meet their needs.”