SANTA MONICA—On Monday, September 13, the Santa Monica Fire Department announced the launch of a brand-new type of emergency resource, the Community Response Unit (CRU). Captain Patrick Nulty of the Public Information Officer for the SMFD indicated in a press release to the Canyon News that the CRU looks like a typical ambulance staffed by two firefighters, but 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.

The Santa Monica City Council funded the CRU in the FY 2021 – 2023 budget as a important project to address homelessness, one of the city’s top three community priorities.

“The Santa Monica City Council wholeheartedly moved the Community Response Unit forward earlier this year as one new investment to meet our community priority of addressing homelessness,” said Mayor Sue Himmelrich. “The CRU’s ‘one meaningful intervention at a time approach’ will help improve outcomes for individuals experiencing homeless and will serve as an additional team on our streets to meet this crisis head on.”

A Paramedic Fire Engine and Ambulance is designed for fast assess, and to treat and transport patients to hospital emergency rooms and then prepare for the next emergency.

When a 9-1-1 call is less urgent and the solution is not the emergency room, the CRU goes to work and has the ability to spend more time on scene to help connect those who need help with more appropriate resources. The team has the unique distinction of transporting people experiencing a behavior health crisis to a psychiatric urgent care center, than an emergency room.

The CRU will work 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 assist paramedics, firefighters, and emergency room resources available for higher acute care services.

Firefighters assigned to the CRU have received specialized training in mental health emergencies, crisis communications, de-escalation, and substance use disorders.

“These highly trained Santa Monica Fire Department professionals look forward to serving the Santa Monica community and helping those in need with specialized interventions and access to supportive services,” said Interim Chief Knabe. “This is something our team has been working toward for a long time and this launch is a big day for us as we evolve our service to uniquely meet the community’s needs.”

The CRU will be in service Monday through Thursday during peak hours.