September 13, 2021 11:16 PM
SANTA MONICA, California – Starting today, the Santa Monica Fire Department is pleased to announce the introduction of a brand new type of emergency resource, the Community Response Unit (CRU). The CRU looks like a typical ambulance with two firefighters, but it has a mission of its own: to provide an alternate answer to 9-1-1 calls to better meet the needs of the vulnerable Santa Monica population, including the homeless. Santa Monica City Council funded the CRU in the FY 2021-2023 budget as a priority project to tackle homelessness, one of the city’s top three municipal priorities.
“The Santa Monica City Council wholeheartedly pushed the Community Response Unit earlier this year as a new investment to meet our community priority of tackling homelessness,” said Mayor Sue Himmelrich. “The CRU’s ‘One Sensible Intervention Approach’ will help improve homeless outcomes and will serve as an extra team on our streets to face this crisis head on.”
A standard paramedic fire and ambulance is designed to quickly examine, treat, and transport patients to a hospital emergency room and then ready for the next emergency. However, when a 9-1-1 call is less urgent and the solution isn’t necessarily the emergency room, the CRU gets to work and has the leeway to spend more time on-site to provide more appropriate resources to those in need. In addition, what makes this team stand out is their ability to move people with a behavioral crisis to a psychiatric emergency center rather than an emergency room. The CRU will work with other city departments, regional agencies and nonprofits to fill the gap in housing and other support services. Another important goal of the program is to keep paramedics, firefighters and emergency rooms available for higher-level acute care services.
Firefighters assigned to the CRU have received special training in mental emergencies, crisis communication, de-escalation and substance use disorders.
“These highly trained Santa Monica Fire Department professionals look forward to serving the Santa Monica community and providing those in need with specialized interventions and access to supportive services,” said Interim Chief Knabe. “Our team has been working on this for a long time and this rollout is a big day for us as we evolve our service to uniquely meet the needs of the community.” The CRU will operate Monday through Thursday during rush hour.