Mayor Harrell calls for expansion of City’s CARE Department

Jul 3, 2024
Written by WR Communications

Launched as a pilot program in 2023, Seattle’s Community Assisted Response and Engagement (CARE) Department would expand to a citywide 24/7 behavioral health response program by the end of 2024 under a proposal announced by Mayor Bruce Harrell.

The goal of the CARE Department is to dispatch behavioral health specialists on 911 calls for people experiencing a mental health crisis or other issues that do not require police engagement. The deployment of CARE staff is designed to both provide appropriate help to the person and allow the City to focus police resources where they are most needed. City data shows that 88% of CARE calls come from Seattle police officers who have already responded to a call and are able to leave when a CARE team arrives.

According to Mayor Harrell, “Since we launched this innovative public safety pilot, the CARE responder team has done outstanding work to both help people in need and to free up police officers to respond to the calls where they’re needed most. That’s why we are announcing our plan to expand CARE to answer calls citywide, seven days a week.”

Initially, CARE was focused on SODO, the Chinatown-International District, and downtown. According to the Mayor’s proposal, the first phase of CARE expansion would cover Capitol Hill, Central Area, First Hill, Judkins Park, Madison Park, Montlake, and upper Pike/Pine. In the fall, CARE would expand to North Seattle, then to South and Southwest Seattle by the end of the year.

The Mayor also announced that he is nominating Acting CARE Chief, Amy Smith, to the role of permanent Chief. This nomination will move on to the City Council for confirmation.

Acting Chief Smith praised the work of her Department, saying, “Our integration and partnerships with community and nonprofit organizations is both significant and vital because the objective is not just to provide the best first response to a 911 call, but then to swiftly help someone onto whatever rehabilitative or supportive path they need.”

Councilmember Bob Kettle, chair of the Public Safety Committee, also lauded the work of the CARE Department: “We can’t succeed in public safety if we don’t also succeed in public health. Our CARE Team is central to that mission. When we create a more diversified and targeted response to 911 calls, we create a more efficient and effective response system that resolves emergencies faster. That’s life-saving work.”


Return to newsletter