NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – Residents of Newport News have a new resource available in case of a mental health crisis.
The city launched what it calls its Community Assistance Response, or CARE, Program on July 19. Since then, team members say they are keeping very busy.
“We kind of expected to have a slow start as people learned about us, but we hit the ground running. Everybody is calling us if there’s even the slightest opportunity we could help the patient or help the person that police are helping. They’re calling us, which is great. We’re trying to see as many people as possible,” explained Georgia Wolkowich, a paramedic with the Newport News CARE team.
The program is staffed by the Newport News Fire Department and Hampton-Newport News Community Services Board. The Newport News Police Department and Riverside Health System are also partners in the effort.
“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, DDS.
Battalion Chief Mark Kain with the Newport News Fire Department says they’ve worked hard to implement this program and says it is just one piece of the puzzle.
“There’s a bigger plan in place the state has implemented,” stated Battalion Chief Kain. “Part of that is a call center that will have a number for people to call if they’re having issues.”
The CARE team in Newport News has two teams that split the week of duty. Each team is made of a paramedic from the Newport News Fire Department and a mental health professional from the Community Services Board.
“Whenever we go to a patient, we spend as much time as they need. We kind of tailor our care for them to what they need at the time," added Wolkowich.