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CARES

Community Assistance, Referral, and Education Service

Enhancing Poulsbo Fire Department’s Response to Non-Emergency 911 Calls

Mission & model

Connecting community members to care with mobile behavioral health response

Poulsbo Fire CARES

Fire CARES is the opens in a new windowPoulsbo Fire Department‘s Mobile Integrated Health Response Unit. Launched January 2021 as a partnership between the Poulsbo Fire Department, the City of Poulsbo, and Olympic Peninsula Community Clinic, CARES responds to individuals struggling with behavioral health issues and helps them navigate the situation—whether they need medical attention, mental health care, substance use disorder services, or other kinds of care.

Staffed by a firefighter/EMT trained in crisis intervention and a behavioral health professional, the CARES unit is a multidisciplinary team aiming to prevent crisis by being proactive in the field.

Connection and community

The goal of the CARES program is to connect individuals to appropriate care and services and to reduce the impact of non-emergency calls on fire and police departments.

Poulsbo Fire CARES accepts fire and police referrals across North Kitsap communities—including Poulsbo, Suquamish, and Bainbridge. The Team works closely with area schools and service providers to improve access to care.

During this challenging time, many of our most vulnerable don’t know where to turn. Getting help can feel overwhelming.

We’re here to help community members take the first step.

Better outcomes, lower costs

Fire CARES is a proven model encouraged by the Washington State Legislature (RCW 35.21.930) that improves outcomes, reduces costs, and helps individuals who have difficulty accessing care—particularly during Covid-19 when numerous in-person behavioral health programs are significantly disrupted.

Poulsbo Fire CARES decreases dependence on a police response while reducing the burden on EMT’s and costly ER visits.

Community Service

The CARES team prioritizes community service, and the well being of individuals they serve. Unlike other behavioral health services, they have continued to help people in person throughout the pandemic, earning them public praise ( opens in a new windowclick to read a review) and recognition as Mariner’s Hometown Heroes.

Can I call the cares unit for help?

During our first phase of operation, the CARES Unit can only be requested by Fire and Police.

Questions about the service are welcome—email project manager Kim for more information.

Meet our cares team

Crisis Intervention Officer

Firefighter Dave Musselman

“I am a career Fire Fighter with the Poulsbo Fire Department where I have been employed as a line Fire Fighter for the past 22 years.

I began my Fire Service adventure as a volunteer/resident Fire Fighter with what was then called Kitsap County Fire District #15 (now known as CKFR). I worked three seasons of wild land in California and seven years structural with Subase Fire/Rescue at Naval Submarine Base Bangor before my time here in Poulsbo.

Throughout my career I have participated in many exciting programs — Juvenile Fire Setter Intervention Officer, Character Education for Elementary age children, BLS Peer Review Liaison, Public Relations Coordinator for Kitsap County Professional Fire Fighters — and when I heard about the Poulsbo Fire CARES program I had a strong desire to participate.

I am excited and motivated to join the Crisis Intervention Team in our North Kitsap Community and connect with those who seek much needed resources.”

COMMUNITY SUPPORT SPECIALIST

Renee M.

“I have over 25 years of experience as a volunteer, counselor, life coach, and advocate, working from a trauma-informed approach with families, children, adolescents, and adults. As a mental health professional for 18 years, I worked with those affected by early childhood trauma, as well as current or recent traumatic situations.

I have many years of experience in collaborating with service providers on all levels within the community to create a network of service and treatment options for individuals in crisis. I have participated in numerous community outreach events over the years, sharing information helpful to those in the field in gaining a better understanding of behavioral health issues that might impede growth, development, healing, and safety.

I believe that my experience working with individuals from all walks of life who have struggled with trauma on various levels provides a solid foundation for the Poulsbo Fire CARES Program as a Community Support Specialist.

I am excited to contribute my strengths, knowledge, and experience to the Poulsbo Fire CARES unit.”

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Proactive Care to save lives

“This program is not only about efficiency and maintaining services levels, it is about getting the right services to our most vulnerable citizens and ultimately to save lives.”

-Poulsbo Fire Chief Jim Gillard

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Long-Term solutions

“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… A CARES Unit is the most effective and efficient way possible.”

-Poulsbo Fire Capt. Jake Gillanders

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Leveraging Expertise

“A CARES Unit will bring medical services and mental health expertise into the field and build on the excellent work already being done by the Poulsbo Navigator.”

-Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson

A Special Thanks to Our Partners

Contact Us

Request services or reach out to learn more.

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