Dave Mussleman will be taking over as the head of the Fire CARES program come January.

CARES responds to mental health, abuse issues

The city of Poulsbo and the Poulsbo Fire Department are coming together to participate in the Fire CARES program, a mobile unit responsible for responding to mental health and substance use/abuse issues.

The Fire CARES Program is different than the CARES Act. Also known as the Community Assistance Referral and Education Service, it is a state-grant program that local fire departments can opt into and are based on responding to non-emergency healthcare situations. The more well-known CARES Act, or Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, is a federal program created in response to COVID-19.

Fire CARES programs are promoted by state legislation with roughly six programs in operation.

Poulsbo’s iteration of the program will launch in January with Kim Hendrickson, director of Poulsbo’s Housing, Health and Human Services Committee, as the project manager, with Poulsbo Fire Capt. Jake Gillanders spearheading the program.

Last year, Poulsbo Fire responded to over 350 calls from or about people dealing with mental illnesses. That’s up 30 from 2019 and up 70 from 2018. It’s that steady increase that inspired Gillanders to set up the Fire CARES program.

“These patients are not going to stop coming to us. We can either deal with them in the most effective and efficient way possible, which is with a CARES Unit, or we go with the least effective and efficient, which is transporting them to the hospital,” Gillanders said.

“When we’re transporting people to the hospital we’re not addressing their underlying problems. We might be resolving the crisis at that moment, but there is no long-term benefit to the patient.”

When Gillanders became the head medical officer for PFD, a high priority for him was instigating a better mental health management program.

“I didn’t know what that was going to look like when I started and serendipitously, Kim came in to talk to us about another program she was working on at the time and through some brainstorming, we landed on the CARES program,” Gillanders said.

The Fire CARES program will essentially be a mobile unit based out of PFD and will be staffed by paramedics with training in crisis response, along with a behavioral health professional. The unit will provide in-home and mobile services to individuals struggling with mental illness, mental health distress, substance use and other behavioral health issues. Additionally, fire and police can request the CARES Unit to respond in the field if needed.

Calls will be prioritized to Poulsbo but will respond to requests throughout north Kitsap County.

The program was recently recommended for funding by the County Treatment Tax Advisory Group and will go before the county commissioners this month. Once approved the program will receive $400,000 in funding in county treatment tax dollars, which equates to one-tenth of one percent of taxes paid to support mental health and addiction services countywide.

More in News

Poulsbo resdients cannot return to their home following an early morning fire that has left the structure uninhabitable. (courtesy photo).
Poulsbo residents displaced after residential fire

Cause of fire under investigation

.
46 new COVID cases confirmed in Kitsap

Nine of the new cases were in North Kitsap

.
‘Navigator’ helps direct people in need to social services in the community

The social-service specialist ‘is worth every penny,’ police chief says

.
SKSD board votes to emphasize student math education

Board directors say students will need improved match skills to compete for jobs

.
State troopers on the lookout for unbelted occupants

WSP attempting to reduce the number of fatalities on Kitsap roadways

Katie Stuart was named NKHS Class of 2021 valedictorian (Courtesy Photo).
NKHS students earn scholarships through service, aspirations

Two North Kitsap High School students are recipients of the West Sound… Continue reading

Two large single-family homes take shape in the new Poulsbo Meadows neighborhood. One of several housing developments that will be growing over the next 12-18 months. (KPark/NKH)
Poulsbo’s growth leads to need for inspector

The city of Poulsbo has approved the Building Department’s request to hire… Continue reading

.
Kiwanis Club of Port Orchard awards $27,500 in scholarships

Eleven SKSD students earn scholarship awards

.
Poulsbo City Hall reopens in a limited capacity

After over a year of being closed, Poulsbo City Hall is open… Continue reading

Most Read