CARE for Public Safety and Wellness

SU President Eduardo PeƱalver and Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell join CARE chief Amy Smith, Seattle City Council member Robert Kettle (at the podium) and Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins.

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell announces expansion of crisis response and public safety department with support from SU student and faculty researchers.

Seattle University faculty and student researchers will play a key role in the data-driven expansion of the city of Seattle’s CARE Department behavioral health responder team, a cadre of professionals who assist community members in crisis while freeing up scarce law enforcement resources for higher priority calls.

“Seattle University is proud to be Seattle’s university,” President Eduardo Peñalver said during an on-campus press conference where Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell announced the expansion and SU’s role. “And in that capacity, we’re always looking for ways to support and serve our city, whose name we share and whose success is essential to our own. And among the ways we serve Seattle as a university is our rigorous and relevant research in support of innovative policies and practices.”

The Community Assisted Response and Engagement (CARE) Department is home to the Seattle 9-1-1 Communications Center and the CARE Community Crisis Responder Team. Team members, working until now as part of a pilot program comprised of six members, are dispatched to aid people through behavioral interventions, crisis de-escalation, resource navigation, assistance in finding services and by providing basic supplies like food, water, clothing and personal hygiene items. 

The plan includes hiring 18 additional responders and three supervisors—paid for with city and federal dollars—and will extend the service throughout the week. The coverage area will also grow from downtown, SODO and the Chinatown-International District to include Seattle University’s campus community, including Capitol Hill, the Central Area, First Hill and upper Pike/Pine.

To ensure the program is meeting its goals, Mayor Harrell said SU researchers will evaluate data collected from the program to allow city leaders to make more informed decisions.

Seattle University professors Jacqueline Helfgott, PhD, and Matthew Hickman, PhD, of the Seattle University Crime and Justice Research Center, as well as their student researchers, will study and evaluate the performance of the care team during its first year, President Peñalver said.

“Here at Seattle University’s campus, we’re really celebrating the longstanding partnership on public safety research that’s done right here,” Mayor Harrell said during the news conference. “They evaluate, they examine, they improve our CARE department. Seattle University has been an essential partner in our public safety work from the Seattle Public Safety Survey to evaluation of community policing plans.”

Mayor Harrell said SU researchers will evaluate field observations, emergency response data and feedback from public safety partners. 

District 3 Councilmember Joy Hollingsworth, whose district includes Seattle University and extends into Central Seattle, praised the collaboration between the city and the university.

“I look forward to the CARE department’s presence in District 3 and their partnership with Seattle University, which will help demonstrate the positive impact that the department’s behavioral health responder teams are having on our public safety system,” Hollingsworth said in a statement.

President Peñalver said Seattle is leading the way nationally and developing alternatives to traditional policing for situations where the conventional model is not what’s called for. 

“At Seattle University, we're proud to be doing our part to support this important work,” said the president. “We look forward to further supporting the city's efforts to find new ways to foster a safe, secure and just community here in Seattle.”

Written by Andrew Binion

Sunday, July 7, 2024