Tacoma to Create New Behavioral Health Crisis Response Team – State of Reform

Tacoma officials plan to introduce a new Behavioral Health Crisis Response Team to help community members.

Mayor Victoria Woodards announced the initiative of State address of the city in Thursday. She said the team will be housed at the Tacoma Fire Department (TFD) and provide treatment resources for people experiencing crisis.

Woodards said TFD is the perfect city partner to coordinate the program because of the work of Public Assistance Referral and Education Service (CARES), which serves community members in a medical service capacity. The CARES program provides assistance for complex medical and psychiatric needs, social support issues, and substance use disorders.

Woodards said the city recently hired two experts to create and co-lead the new Behavior Crisis Response TeamAlicia Morales and Kathy Halstone.

“They bring a vital understanding of the need for transparency, knowledge of the community behavioral health and criminal court systems, expertise in working with stakeholders and experience with program development,” Woodards said.

The city also partnered with Tacoma Cease Fire to establish a community trauma response team, Woodards said. The team will respond to crises following traumatic incidents to help community members heal; support and referrals designed to offer resources to residents affected by trauma; and focused on the emotional needs of the community, leaving first responders free to focus on incident response.

“Community Trauma Response Teams will improve our response to traumatic events and ensure we better support our neighbors affected by violence,” Woodards said. “Our goal is to partner with culturally appropriate organizations that can be there for our neighbors in their time of need.”

Woodards also discussed affordable housing/homelessness challenges in the city.

“To build a better tomorrow, we must have affordable housing in every neighborhood, at every income level, for every person,” she said. “Housing affordability is a challenge everywhere you look.”

The Washington State Department of Commerce recently announced the need for 1.1 million additional homes in the state over the next 20 years, Woodards said.

“Locally, ours Home in Tacoma the plan calls for 60,000 new housing units by 2040,” she said. “While this is an ambitious goal, it is still not enough to meet the need. But we will keep trying.”

Tacoma Action Strategy for Affordable Housing is in its fifth year of operation. This has helped the city create more homes for people, kept housing affordable and in good repair, helped people stay in their homes and reduced barriers for people who often encounter them, Woodards said.

“Since 2019, we have permitted over 7,000 new homes,” she said. “Over 4,000 of these homes have already been built; 413 of the units built are affordable to residents at or below 60% of Pierce County’s median family income, which based on a family of four is about $61,000. While they are not as affordable as they should be, we will continue to focus on moving that needle.

Woodards said 241 additional units are planned to be built for people at or below that income level. The city has also earmarked $500,000 in down payment assistance funding for black housing and several anti-displacement measures, such as rehabilitation projects and foreclosure relief, she said.

According to 2022. A moment in time numberthere are at least 1,851 homeless individuals in all of Pierce County, and about 75 percent of them report sleeping in Tacoma, Woodards said.

“As we continue to confront the impact of homelessness, we must consider the complex diversity of needs of our homeless neighbors,” she said. “In 2022, we created two mitigation sites that were specifically designed to provide a safe experience for our neighbors who choose to live in tents.”

The city will also launch a safe parking program that will allow people to temporarily live out of their cars, trucks or vans, Woodards said.

“Because we know that 6 percent of the homeless neighbors in our county live in their vehicles,” she said. “By designating places where they can park, they will be safer and have access to basic hygiene services. The goal in each case is to connect people with permanent housing options and services while stabilizing their daily living conditions. Last year we housed over 3,000 people across our shelter network and placed 549 of our unsheltered neighbors into permanent housing.”

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