Find Posts By Topic

CARE Department’s Dual Dispatch Launches: Expanding Seattle’s Emergency Response Toolkit and Mayor Harrell’s New Public Safety Department

New pilot sends behavioral health responders to 911 calls, providing improved services and reducing strain on police staffing

Seattle – Today, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell joined public safety and community leaders to share details of the official launch of the Dual Dispatch pilot – a foundational program for Seattle’s newest public safety department: the Community Assisted Response and Engagement (CARE) department. This launch marks a milestone in Seattle’s efforts to diversify emergency response, help people in need receive appropriate assistance, and ensure the highest priority incidents receive critical police and fire services.

“Our mission as a City government is to help people in need and keep them safe – this innovative new approach will help us better serve our residents. The lessons we learn – and the people we help – through the efforts of this new CARE responder team will allow us to move forward as we establish a true third public safety department to work alongside our police officers and firefighters to keep our communities safe,” said Mayor Bruce Harrell. “This pilot will not change our systems overnight, but it is another tool to advance safety and an important step forward, a reflection of years of diligent work by city and community leaders to build policies, shared understandings, and, most of all, trust. Rooted in bringing people together, this One Seattle effort is advancing shared goals of keeping Seattle residents safe and ensuring that people in crisis get the appropriate care.”  

The new CARE response team features behavioral health specialists, who all have prior field experience along with a bachelor’s or master’s degree related to the field. Equipped with skills to help people in need, the team includes members with peer counselor certification and who have served with the DESC Mobile Crisis Team, Crisis Solutions Center, King County Behavioral Health Outreach, and as an SPD Community Service Officer.

The team completed a rigorous training plan collaboratively developed by the Downtown Emergency Service Center, Seattle Police Department (SPD), and Seattle Fire Department (SFD) with support from the University of Washington and the Washington Co-Responder Outreach Alliance. The initial five weeks of training included classes and training exercises focused on mental health services, crisis prevention, de-escalation, first aid, and Narcan administration. The curriculum builds on efforts from other successful co-responder programs around the country.

The CARE responder team began their training completing ride-a-longs with SPD and SFD teams this month and, starting this week, are being officially dispatched to calls with SPD.


The dual dispatch pilot pairs CARE responders with SPD officers, with both units dispatched simultaneously by the 911 Center, which is also housed in the CARE Department. After arriving at the scene and ensuring it is safe, SPD officers can respond to other calls while the CARE responders provide services. This initial dual dispatch pilot model will inform future development of diversified response and is designed to accommodate rapid iteration and continuous improvement. This program allows the City to deploy new teams specialized to help people in crisis, safely gather critical data to grow the program responsibly, and make an immediate impact freeing up critical and sometimes scarce police and fire resources.

The pilot is initially focused on Downtown, including the Chinatown-International District and SODO, operating from 11 am to 11pm, a schedule that matches where and when the most frequent calls related to mental health crisis occur.

“I honor the years of relentless effort across public service, nonprofit providers, and community that precipitated this moment,” said Acting CARE Chief Amy Smith. “We are all in this together, feeling shared concerns, but also anchored in shared hope and resolute in our commitment to create a more healthy, safe, and compassionate Seattle. We are collectively smart enough and resourceful enough and dedicated enough to make things better.”

CARE responders are dispatched by calling 9-1-1 like the City’s other emergency services. Trained call takers in the City’s 911 Center will decide which incidents are appropriate for this response. There is no number to call to directly request a CARE response. Call takers and dispatchers in the 911 Center have been trained on new protocols for sending out the new CARE responders, and SPD command staff have met with officers across precincts to answer questions about this new approach.

Calls eligible for a CARE response include low-acuity welfare checks, calls that don’t need enforcement, and others that are non-violent, non-emergent, and non-medical. In the City’s dispatch system these calls are coded as “person down” or “wellness/welfare check,” there have been 2,686 person down calls and 5,533 wellness/welfare check calls so far in 2023.

Metrics and methods for evaluation of the pilot and next steps are being developed in partnership with Seattle University. Key metrics for success may include number of calls responded to by CARE; experience of people receiving a response from the CARE team; and additional capacity for SPD and SFD to answer higher priority calls due to CARE’s assistance on lower priority calls. The CARE department is currently developing a public facing dashboard to transparently track performance with a goal of launching before the end of 2023.

Mayor Harrell’s 2024 proposed budget increases funding for the CARE department by 30% in 2024 from 2023, hiring 13 additional full-time staff, making needed technology upgrades, and investing in enhanced violence intervention efforts. Formerly the Community Safety and Communications Center (CSCC), the mayor is proposing a budget of $26.5 million, a significant increase from the department’s 2023 budget of $20.5 million.

CARE will be Seattle’s third public safety department, aligning existing community-focused and non-police public safety investments and programs. The new department will have three divisions: emergency call takers and dispatchers in the 911 Center; responders including behavioral health professionals; and leaders working to proactively prevent violence and support violence intervention programs.

What People Are Saying

Attorney General Bob Ferguson

“This new Department built around community-focused public safety responders will make Seattle safer. I appreciate Mayor Harrell’s innovations, leadership, and commitment to making every community safer.”

Senator Patty Murray

“When you are struggling, it can make all the difference in the world to know that there is someone you can talk to who will listen and help get you the care you need.Securing federal resources to support mental health and public safety initiatives including Seattle’s CARE Department is a huge priority of mine and I’m thrilled I was able to help get these resources included in last year’s funding package. Officially launching the CARE Department pilot sends a clear message that we are serious about evidence-based public safety that meets the needs of our communities—this is going to help countless people across Seattle.”

Representative Pramila Jayapal

“Around the country, we have seen public safety departments struggle to deal with an increasing number of non-emergency calls related to mental health and social needs, too often leading to dangerous situations where police are left to deal with circumstances they are not trained for. I was proud to support funding that will go toward Seattle’s Community Assisted Response & Engagement Department Pilot Program, which will send mental health and wellness-related calls to a new civilian-run department, reducing the burden on police officers and ensuring that those who respond to these situations are equipped with the skills and knowledge necessary to help. I’m excited to see this program launch and for my city to create a more holistic approach to public safety and serve as a model for the rest of the country.”

Representative Adam Smith

“Today’s launch of the Community Assisted Response & Engagement (CARE) Department is an exciting step forward in the efforts to strengthen our public safety approach for all members of our communities. By diverting mental health, substance use disorder, and wellness-related calls to specialized service providers, the CARE Department will help reduce the strain on police departments and connect individuals in crisis with the services they need. In Congress, I have requested $3.5 million through the appropriations process to support the CARE Department and I will continue fighting to secure this funding so we can better respond to the mental health, substance use, and homelessness crises and make our region safer for everyone.”

State Representative Chipalo Street

“I am thrilled to see Seattle develop a third option to respond to public safety calls. Providing assistance and care to people experiencing mental and behavioral health crises will create better outcomes in our community and free up police resources to focus on fighting crime. I look forward to the success of the CARE team and hope to see it expanded across the city and made available 24/7.”

King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay

“The most important role of government is to keep people safe and healthy. Mayor Harrell’s CARE department will help keep our communities safe during these challenging times through a collaborative public health approach. I’m excited to see better outcomes for our neighbors experiencing mental illness, substance use disorders, and safety issues.” 

Seattle Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle, South Park & SODO)

“Seattle’s new civilian response team is cause for celebration. This program will divert some 911 calls to qualified community responders, freeing up police to respond to the emergencies only they can address. As Public Safety and Human Services Committee Chair, sponsoring Ordinance 126233 in 2020 and creating the Community Safety and Communications Center, it has long been my priority to have a diversified response within our public safety continuum. I am confident that the CARE team, launching its work today, will support our residents in crisis and benefit all of Seattle.”

Seattle Councilmember Andrew Lewis (District 7, Pioneer Square, Queen Anne, & Magnolia)

“Since my first year in office, I have worked to build an independent civilian emergency response service to supplement the work of our police officers. CARE will respond directly to 911 calls and provide much-needed intervention for people in crisis in our Downtown core, and free up police officers to respond to calls only they can respond to. I applaud Mayor Harrell, Chief Smith, and their team for their visionary leadership, and look forward to continued partnership and collaboration to ensure the CARE Department is a success.”

Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins

“Alternative 9-1-1 response is a proven strategy that is transforming how cities serve people in crisis. The Seattle Fire Department and its Health One units, which are staffed with two firefighter/EMTs and a case worker, enthusiastically welcome a new partner in this work. We look forward to collaborating with shared clients, development of best practices and professional relationships, and jointly working to reduce the impact of these responses on our front-line public safety professionals.”

Seattle Police Chief Adrian Z. Diaz

“The Seattle Police Department is excited to participate in the CARE dual dispatch pilot program.  As we have seen with previous Crisis Intervention programming, SPD officers utilize care coordination/community support programs at a high rate when available.  Having the CARE team respond directly and be available as an additional resource when not dispatched to a call will provide our officers with the resources necessary to identify and stabilize underlying conditions leading to 911 responses.”

Director Tanya Kim, Human Services Department

“Having trained professionals on the ground and in the community to meet people where they are and connect them to resources and solutions in times of critical need is essential to ensuring we have a strong, healthy city.  HSD is a proud partner of CARE.”

Dr. Faisal Khan, Director of Public Health – Seattle & King County

“Public Health applauds the City of Seattle for its efforts in building upon existing behavioral health services with additional resources and connections to care. Right now, we need more behavioral health resources across the board, ranging from immediate crisis response to low-barrier treatment options. King County is working on a number of measures that connect our currently strained behavioral health system and help address the overdose crisis, including expanding access to naloxone, further integrating 988, advancing mobile crisis teams, addressing Medicaid rates to help increase wages for workers, and introducing five Crisis Care Centers around the region. By building out the overall system, we have an opportunity to respond to growing behavioral health needs, substance use disorders, and emerging public health issues in and around King County.”


Jim Buchanan, King County Equity Now

“We’re excited that Mayor Harrell has taken a crucial and monumental step towards ensuring that the proper assessments and actions happen when law enforcement agencies are dispatched. Simultaneously dispatching a mental health professional will ensure that mental health patients will be properly assessed. We believe it also aids in the process of developing a solid public safety plan for Seattle, while assuring that all Seattle residents are properly serviced. In the past administrations, mental health patients have been victims of the police and legal system, especially in the Black and Brown communities. Thanks to Mayor Harrell (by dispatching mental health professionals) our people will now receive the proper 911 healthcare that’s needed, this will save lives. Let’s keep this kind of phenomenal work going forward. Great job Mayor.”

Lisa Daugaard and Tara Moss, Co-Executive Directors, Purpose Dignity Action (PDA)

“Public safety ultimately is closely tied to the wellness of all members of our community. Seattle’s CARE Department stands as an opportunity to feature clinical and de-escalation skills and connection to care as strategies to advance safety for all. These approaches are widely supported and deserve a home in our local government.”

Darrell Powell, President, NAACP – Seattle King County Branch

“Thanks to Mayor Harrell for his leadership in establishing the Community Assisted Response and Engagement (CARE) pilot program. It’s a first step to providing an alternative response, ensuring the safety of those experiencing a mental health crisis when 911 is called.”

Rev. Harriett Walden, Mothers for Police Accountability

“I think this is a great idea to pilot a dual response for behavioral health specialists to travel together with police in response to a crisis situation. This also helps free up police officers to do other things, especially where police are really needed.”

 Dr. Leslie R. Walker-Harding, Chief Academic Officer and SVP, Seattle Children’s Hospital and Chair, Department of Pediatrics, University of Washington

“Now parents who have dreaded calling 911 when they needed de-escalation or crisis prevention support for their child or family member can expect someone focused and trained on delivering care and assistance separate from law enforcement. The CARE team is the next step in having safe and supportive communities in Seattle, regardless of age, race/ethnicity, language, disability, medical or behavioral condition, now there is a planned appropriate response available for us when we need it.”


Don Blakeney Executive Director of The U District Partnership

“Keeping our communities safe requires a range of thoughtful strategies. Bringing trained behavioral health professionals into our city’s 911 response is a smart first step that aligns with many of the community strategies in place today, including the work we are doing in the U District.”

Deni Luna and Crystal Brown, Cultivate South Park

“This is an extremely promising solution to nurture strong Community partnerships for this beautiful city. CARE comes after months of deep community engagement over thorny issues. The mood in Seattle is shifting to a collaborative model of policing, allowing a rich array of community resources to step forward. This idea is timely, innovative, and urgently needed.”

M. Angela Castañeda, Director, Beacon Business Alliance

“In Southeast Seattle’s District Two, small businesses continually face safety concerns. It’s not just the financial and time costs of repairing physical damage to brick-and-mortar establishments, but also the profound loss of a sense of physical safety that affects those operating businesses in our communities. We eagerly anticipate understanding how CARE plans to collaborate with our community-based organizations. We are particularly excited about the work that will be done alongside trusted advocates, leveraging established relationships and communication channels within our neighborhoods.”

Erin Goodman, Executive Director, SODO BIA

“As SODO continues to be on the frontlines of the drug, homelessness and mental health crisis, our community requires diverse interventions to address our complex issues. The CARE Department is a tested model that will meet our community’s needs and allow our Seattle Police Department to focus on crime response and prevention. We applaud Mayor Harrell for his thoughtful approach to public safety and are excited to see the CARE Department grow their impact to improve public safety for SODO and the City.“

Doug Holtom, Executive Director, First Hill Improvement Association

“By providing behavioral health experts as part of CARE, our police officers can focus their work on preventing and solving crimes. I applaud the Mayor and his team for making this a priority, and for providing a 2024 budget that allows for this new program to expand and succeed.” 

Rick Hooper, Co-Chair, Uptown Alliance

“Uptown Alliance looks forward to working with the CARE Department to address a growing number of people needing behavioral health assistance in the Uptown urban center — Department level status is a great approach.”

Lisa Howard, Executive Director, Alliance for Pioneer Square

“Often the Seattle small business community is faced with an urgent situation that requires an immediate, nuanced approach by first responders. The CARE department’s Dual Dispatch pilot program addresses this critical need of Pioneer Square’s stakeholders by supporting street-level public safety response through evidence-based solutions. Overall, this program is an important step to ensure all incident circumstances are considered within the 911 response. The Alliance for Pioneer Square looks forward to continuing to partner with the Mayor’s Office and City leaders to ensure our neighborhood is safe and welcoming for all.”

Kathleen Johnson, Executive Director, Historic South Downtown

“Historic South Downtown congratulates Mayor Harrell, the Council, City departments, and all those who have been working to launch the new CARE program. The South Downtown neighborhoods of Pioneer Square and Chinatown-International District have consistently sought improvements to Seattle’s public safety system that deploy more comprehensive systems across the city. We hope the CARE program is a new, broad-based approach that will address the intertwining challenges our residents, business owners, workers and visitors face on a regular basis. Historic South Downtown looks forward to continuing to work with Seattle officials and departments to evaluate our efforts, incorporate lessons learned, and bring more effective resources to the street that will address the complex and connected issues of open criminal activity, public drug and alcohol use, untreated behavioral health needs and houselessness.”

Paula Mueller, Chair, Queen Anne Community Council

“As a community, we are extremely pleased that Mayor Harrell has launched the CARE department, a response option that has been missing as an available resource.  We are also hopeful that these resources will be available to other communities in Seattle, after proving its success in the downtown neighborhood, where it is critically needed.”

Estela Ortega, Founder and Executive Director, El Centro de la Raza

“Our community has been clear in demanding more effective and more equitable public safety responses, and I want to thank Mayor Harrell for making this vision a reality with the CARE response pilot. El Centro has been providing services to residents for over 50 years, and our experience shows that holistic approaches to get people the help they need – the type of approach this CARE team will use – produce better and more sustainable results than purely punitive ones. We’re excited to support this pilot and will continue to be a partner in serving Seattle residents.”

Tija Petrovich, Chair, Pioneer Square Residence Council

“CARE will be bringing a much-needed mental health response to our streets, our homes, and our shared places. It’s an alternative and additional service in times of crisis, trauma, and distress, as well as a valuable community resource I am so proud of our city and our mayor for building. I believe the responders on this team will be someone’s superhero, someone’s light, or someone’s hope in a dark moment. Today is an amazing day for 911 response in Seattle.”

Jon Scholes, President & CEO, Downtown Seattle Association

“The CARE team is a much-needed addition to Seattle’s public safety tool kit. We appreciate the City identifying downtown as the pilot program area so CARE responders can address the well-chronicled need for behavioral health and de-escalation intervention. Law enforcement and CARE teams working together will help ensure a safe and healthy downtown for all.”

Mike Stewart, Executive Director, Ballard Alliance

“We are encouraged to see the City taking positive steps towards addressing the current deficit of public safety responders for residents, business, and visitors, and look forward to the expansion of CARE department response in Ballard.”


Rev. Willie C Seals Jr., Senior Pastor – The Christ Spirit Church

“Mayor Harrell has demonstrated exceptional leadership and compassion through the implementation of the CARE department. This visionary idea of combining police dispatching with mental health professionals as a response team is cutting edge. With this approach, it fosters an element of inclusion and compassion. I will be looking forward to the early reporting of this program. Thank you, Mayor Harrell, for taking this bold step forward, toward healing this city holistically.”

Rev. Dr. Paris L. Smith, Sr., Senior Pastor – Mount Zion Baptist Church

“This new initiative that Mayor Bruce A. Harrell is launching today is a monumental effort to meet the needs of our city, developing better relationships between our Police Department and citizens while creating a template to be emulated by other metropolitan cities! I am grateful to reside and serve in this great city of Seattle led by Mayor Harrell who is committed to his campaign promise as well!”

Bishop Reggie Witherspoon, Pastor – Mt. Calvary Baptist Church

“I applaud the mayor for his genuine concern for the city, and for the mentally ill. We are all desirous of this demographic receiving the professional help they need, and this care pilot program in conjunction with the Seattle Police Department offers the intervention necessary to get them the help that has the potential to heal their situation.” 


Davonte Belle, President, Dispatchers Guild

“The Seattle Dispatchers’ Guild proudly extends our support to the CARE department’s new Dual Dispatch team and their vital mission of providing an alternative for individuals in mental health crises. This initiative is a significant step towards assuring the well-being of our community members and aligns with our commitment to promoting public safety and compassion in emergency response. We commend their efforts and look forward to working together to create a safer and more compassionate Seattle.”

Paul Dascher, Secretary-Treasurer, Teamsters Local 117

“Through outreach and by connecting people with essential resources, Teamster community service officers are already working to save lives and make our city a more humane place to live. Adding behavioral health professionals as another sensible alternative to law enforcement is a positive step toward reimagining how we serve people in our community who are in crisis.”  

John Rios, SEIU Healthcare 1199NW

“Behavioral health conditions should be met with behavioral health care, and I’m glad to see the City take the next step forward in providing this alternative to law enforcement. My work centers around connecting with people and supporting them in accessing the services, shelter, and housing they need, and having a CARE department to partner with rather than law enforcement will make that work more successful.”


Aaron Barthel, Owner, Intrigue Chocolates Co.

“Statistically, Pioneer Square hosts an overwhelmingly disproportionate concentration of the region’s street-involved at-risk population. The system sends people our way. The CARE team is a big reason our neighborhood continues to function with hope and positivity.”

Erik Hunter, Pioneer Square resident and owner of Dead Line and Good Bar

“I’m pleased to see our city administration taking the right steps to improve our community health and safety issues through the launch of the CARE Department.  As a business owner and resident, I feel we need the right assistance at the right time along with enforcement to address each issue properly based on circumstance.  There is no quick fix here so we all need to work together for incremental improvements, change what’s not working and grasp what is, making our city safe and welcoming for all residents/visitors AND a great place to do business.”

Denise Moriguchi, President and CEO, Uwajimaya  

“I applaud the Mayor’s Office and the City Council for taking action and launching the CARE pilot.  Responding to behavioral health and substance abuse needs with trained community-focused professionals not only helps those in need but offers a way our City’s residents and businesses can know that compassionate and equitable assistance will be provided when 911 is called.  I am optimistic about the pilot and the positive changes it will bring for all involved.”

Jen Osborn, Owner, PARATEX

“As a smaller family-owned business in SODO for decades, we have seen the area’s challenges across the spectrum: from people dying on our property to arsonists to endless cycles of abandoned trash and theft.  It can sometimes feel like there will never be enough public service resources to address the volume of people in distress.  Our employees, our tenants and our customers need to feel safe, and this isn’t always the case right now.  I am excited to hear about the creation of the CARE department and how it will hopefully allow our first responders to free up resources and pinpoint skill sets more effectively.  We can see people suffering mental distress daily in our area and anything we can do to get them help from trained professionals will help all of our neighbors collectively.”

Jose Perez, Owner, Villa Escondida

“Yes to more help for people who need it. Yes to more options. The last few years were very hard on restaurants like ours and other small businesses. I have concerns for our staff safety but also for the people in our downtown who need care and don’t get it. We need to try something new. A new way to help those who need it, while still allowing police to answer more critical calls. Thank you, Mayor Harrell, for taking action for Seattle.”

Chris Pink, Owner, Can Can

“As a small business owner for nearly 19 years, we’ve learned that success requires endless innovation and action. Similar to Mayor Harrell’s current initiatives and noticeable cleanup just outside the door of our business, he continues to spearhead effective programs such as the CARE unit.  In my humble opinion, this is a monumental step forward to help those in need with more comprehensive options while continuing public safety and protecting small businesses like ours. Through all the challenges we’ve faced and learned to make things work, I applaud Mayor Harrell for acting to launch the CARE pilot. It’s a needed step forward, offering more ways to support our community, bring positive changes for all involved, and continue to heal our city from unprecedented times. “