East Jefferson Fire Rescue’s new CARES program has received two pieces of welcome news
East Jefferson Fire Rescue’s new CARES program has received two pieces of welcome news: The Association of Washington Cities has greenlit a second round of funding and the program was chosen to receive additional financial support through the Stronger Together Funding Opportunity.
The money will fund CARES through July 2024, according to Chief Bret Black.
“The unfortunate part is we applied for a lot more than what we got,” Black said.
“We anticipated we’d be able to expand the program because there is more need than capacity with CARES. So, we’re not going to be able to do some of the things we wanted to do as next steps, but the good news is we can at least maintain the program for the foreseeable future.”
The Community Assistance, Referral and Education Services program addresses a variety of needs for those involved in 911 calls. Emergency responders handle the immediate crisis but often the person has other serious needs as well. They might be struggling with issues related to mental health or substance abuse, or they may be in need of medication, medical supplies, or food.
The program started in January with the city of Port Townsend acting as the host agency for the $217,300 state grant. According to Black, the county contributed two smaller grants at about $50,000 each and a foundation has helped with ancillary needs.
The initiative was approved by the Olympic Community of Health board of directors to receive $130,000 in Stronger Together funds.
The program is spearheaded by firefighter-paramedic Jeff Woods and social worker Leeann Peterson of Believe in Recovery.
In February, just after the program began in earnest, the unit worked 70 cases.
“It's been going great,” Black said. “We hit the ground running on that very first day, back in January. They had a list of waiting clients, and that's kind of how it's gone.”
The chief said that some departments have expanded CARES to be more of a mobile integrated healthcare and community paramedicine model, which allows for Medicare and Medicaid to be billed for some of the services without impacting the client.
Black said he anticipates that the EJFR board of commissioners will likely be interested in doing something similar so the program can become as self-sufficient as possible.
“I don't see us ever being able to let go of CARES again, because of the impact we have on our community,” he said.