Cambridge to roll out unarmed social workers for 911 calls related to mental health crises - without police presence

Green old car is parking on the road by Arisa Chattasa is licensed under Unsplash
CAMBRIDGE, MA - Officials with the city of Cambridge announced that a team of unarmed social workers would soon be responding to 911 calls instead of the police.

According to Boston 25 News, the director of the city's new Community Assistance Response and Engagement (CARE) said that the team is preparing for a "rollout" as soon as July. The CARE team has reportedly been training since September 2023 and has been conducting outreach since December 2023.

The next step is a tentative plan that will involve 911 dispatchers sending the unarmed social workers to non-violent incidents and mental health crises. The difference between the CARE team and other alternative response programs recently deployed in other cities across the country is that they will not be accompanied by police when responding to these calls.

Liz Speakman, the team's director, said, "If anything goes wrong. If there's any safety concerns. They can radio for assistance immediately and get back up right away." Speakman said that the team has traveled to Durham, North Carolina, on two separate occasions to study the alternative response program that they have implemented.

She said, "We've learned a lot from going on ride-alongs with them and seeing how they interact with community members. I think people understand that having an unarmed civilian with experience in mental health going to mental health calls is really the right response."

All five members of the CARE team have extensive backgrounds as social workers and first responders. CARE team member Marie Mathieu said in a statement, "It's an opportunity for us to help fix a system that's been broken for a really long time. I think this program is an opportunity for us to take care of the people we are trained to take care of."

Cambridge Vice Mayor Marc McGovern, who also has a background in social work, said, "There are simply some calls that require police and there are some that don't. I certainly hope other communities take the step that will follow our lead on this." There is also strong support from the Cambridge Police Commissioner, Christine Elow.

Elow has publicly expressed her support in what appears to be the most ambitious alternative to policing in the entire state of Massachusetts. She said in a statement, "Our officers have so many responsibilities day to day and to have a partner that can respond to certain calls will be beneficial on so many levels, including helping us better connect with our most vulnerable."

However, negotiations with the local police union have stalled the rollout. Cambridge Police Patrol Officers Association President Chris Sullivan said in a statement, "The Cambridge Police Patrol Officers Association believes the Community Assistance Response and Engagement team has a place in Cambridge as a supplement to the city's already excellent emergency services. However, the CARE team must first be prepared with proper training and safety protocols, and our negotiations with the City should be settled in good faith.

Every year, the Cambridge Police Department officers deliver on-the-scene crisis intervention and emergency counseling to more than 1,000 people in mental health crisis; administer well over 50 life-saving doses of NARCAN to persons in drug-induced cardiac arrest; provide compassionate assistance and first-responder care to hundreds of citizens experiencing medical emergencies; and perform many other duties that demonstrate the care, compassion and dedication with which CPPOA members approach their job every day."
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Liz Speakman, the team's director, said, "If anything goes wrong. If there's any safety concerns. They can radio for assistance immediately and get back up right away." When seconds count, police are only minutes away. WHEN, not if, something goes wrong, it will be too late to call for help. This plan WILL kill more people than whoever came up with it believes it could theoretically save.


Well, the gene pool needs a little cleaning anyways......


I hope they have burial insurance.


Well, the upside, people looking for work in the mental health field will soon find openings in Cambridge....

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