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Cambridge Community Safety Department and Public Safety Partners Visit and Learn from Durham Community Safety Department’s Holistic Empathetic Assistance Response Team

Cambridge Public Safety Officials Visit Durham Crisis Response Program
Cambridge Public Safety Officials Visit the Durham, North Carolina Community Safety Department

In an effort to bolster its crisis response capabilities, the City of Cambridge recently sent a group of officials from the Community Safety, Police and Emergency Communications Departments to Durham, North Carolina to learn from the experiences and successes of the Durham Community Safety Department (DCSD). Between January 22-24, 2024, staff learned about Durham’s crisis response program operations, trainings and best practices. Cambridge staff connected with their Durham counterparts, participated in daily learning sessions, rode along with team members, and witnessed mental health professional-led teams respond to a range of calls from trespassing to mental health emergencies.

This visit was conducted as the Cambridge Community Safety Department’s Community Assistance Response and Engagement (CARE) Team finalizes its preparations to begin responding to select 9-1-1 calls this spring. In addition to learning about their history, early challenges, and growth, DCSD leadership shared data on program utilization, response times, types of calls, strong working relationships with local public safety agencies, and highlights of the department’s impact on community members.

“I was very pleased to witness how all the emergency response partners worked collaboratively behind the scenes and on scene to support their community members,” said Marie Mathieu, Assistant Director of Clinical Services with the Cambridge Community Safety Department. “There was so much respect for each other’s expertise, stepping up or back when appropriate, and even calling for assistance when necessary. Knowing how much our city cares for its members, I am so excited about the work we are doing to create a similar collaborative in Cambridge.” 

Since launching in June 2022, Durham’s Holistic Empathetic Assistance Response Team (HEART) Program has been working with 911 call centers to get social workers and crisis teams to respond to non-emergency mental health calls. They have expanded their operations and now have daily coverage across the city 12 hours a day. Overall, they have responded to more than 12,000 calls, including unwanted or trespassing, mental health crisis, welfare checks, and more. 

Ryan Smith, Director of DCSD, stated, "I am excited for the City of Cambridge and encouraged by the thoughtful approach they are taking to designing their alternative response program. The Cambridge CARE Team is doing a lot of things that I think set us up for success here in DurhamThey are building a collaborative team across public safety, and they are taking time to learn from other cities. I was impressed that they brought police and emergency communications representatives with them on their site visit. I look forward to following their progress and being part of a community of practice where we all continue to learn from one another."

From September through November 2023, the Cambridge CARE Team completed 12 weeks and 360 hours of training. This training included de-escalation, conflict meditation, harm reduction, communication and structural dynamics, CPR and First Aid, sharps disposal, boundary setting, first responder training, and much more. In addition to classroom training, CARE responders received valuable field experience by participating in ride-alongs with First Step, Pro EMS, Fire, Police, Cambridge Community Engagement Team, and the local Multi-Disciplinary Outreach Team. The training program has included a host of team-building activities and chances to meet with various advocacy groups, organizations, businesses, and nonprofits in Cambridge. 

“By leveraging the knowledge and experiences gained from this visit, I have increased confidence that Cambridge will be even more equipped to support the needs and well-being of our community members,” said Elizabeth Speakman, Director of the Community Safety Department.The three days spent with the Durham HEART Team put our three-month training into further perspective for our responder and clinical teams. 

To learn more about the Cambridge CARE Team and Community Safety Department, please visit https://www.cambridgema.gov/Departments/communitysafety, email info@cambridgesafety.org or call (617) 349-7200.

Page was posted on 2/7/2024 11:53 AM
Page was last modified on 2/7/2024 11:53 AM
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