In September of 2021, the Santa Monica Fire Department launched a brand-new type of emergency resource, the Community Response Unit (CRU). The CRU looks like a typical ambulance staffed by two Firefighters, yet it has a distinct mission: to provide an alternative response to 9-1-1 calls to better address the needs of vulnerable populations in Santa Monica, including people experiencing homelessness.
A standard Paramedic Fire Engine and Ambulance is designed to quickly assess, treat, and transport patients to hospital emergency rooms and then be ready for the next emergency. However, when a 9-1-1 call is less urgent and the solution is not necessarily the emergency room, the CRU has the latitude to spend more time on scene to help connect those in need with more appropriate resources. The CRU works in collaboration with other City departments, regional agencies, and non-profits to help bridge the gap for housing and other support services. Another important goal of the program is to help keep Paramedics, Firefighters, and emergency room resources available for higher acute care services.
The new Community Response Unit's (CRU) first month of service was a busy one. By October 2021, the CRU team responded to 38, 9-1-1 calls, canceled Medic Engines 28 times, keeping units in service for high acuity emergencies. The CRU has transported 4 patients to the Psychiatric Urgent Care Center rather than the Emergency Room, and given 22 Service Referrals, connecting several vulnerable residents to services.
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