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

.
Bremerton’s St. Michael Medical Center temporarily closing ER

Emergency services halted at 7 p.m. Friday due to staff shortage

Back to school vaccination event.
Back to School Poulsbo vaccine event July 31

North Point Church and Peninsula Community Health Services have partnered to host… Continue reading

.
2021 Fathoms royalty get their crowns

Pandemic uncertainties couldn’t dissuade Royalty Court

.
Long-awaited modernization project at Manchester Fuel Depot finally started

Work on nearly $200 million project to take nine years to complete

.
‘The entire west is burning’

With a worst-ever wildfire season feared this year, here’s what residents should know to keep safe

.
West Sound Film Festival is back for its fifth year

Meet three filmmakers being showcased at the festival this August

.
75 new COVID cases confirmed in Kitsap since Thursday

Outbreak of 18 cases at kids summer camp in Poulsbo

The brick flooring and wood paneling is original to the Olympic Hotel now called Hotel Scandi. Ken Park/North Kitsap Herald photos
Hotel to open in downtown Poulsbo

While an official opening date is still in the works, soon visitors… Continue reading

The Suquamish Tribe laid to rest former Suquamish Tribal Chairman Richard Belmont Jr. on what would have been his 82nd birthday on July 24.
Former Suquamish Tribal Chairman laid to rest

Former chairman of the Suquamish Tribe Richard Belmont Jr., who played a… Continue reading

Most Read