At a recent District 3 Community Coffee Chat, Phoenix Fire Chief Mike Duran spoke to the community about the Phoenix Fire Department and his priorities since becoming chief in February.

Duran, a native of Phoenix and a second-generation firefighter, has been with the department since 1994. As an assistant chief, he also helped build and implement the Community Assistance Program (CAP), which has existed since 1995 and is set to undergo a major expansion.

In June 2021, the Phoenix mayor and council approved $15 million for the first-of-its kind program to improve the crisis response for behavioral and mental health calls in the community. The city says that the investment to augment the CAP is part of a $21 million commitment to “improving accountability, transparency, responsiveness and trust in public safety.”

Operating out of the Phoenix Fire Department, CAP will remove primary responsibility for mental health response from Phoenix Police. The original CAP, which was similar, was not adequately funded for the kind of services that are needed now and was staffed largely by volunteers.

When a resident calls 9-1-1, either Phoenix Fire and/or Phoenix Police department responds directly. With this new system, set to be implemented this year, individuals contacting 9-1-1 who are experiencing behavioral and mental health issues or are in need of emergency crisis response will have a coordinated response from the City.

The expanded CAP, when fully operational, will consist of 19 mobile units: 10 units will be professionally staffed by civilian city employees and will provide crisis response, connection to care, and other social services; nine units will involve a public-private partnership with a behavioral health provider to ensure those who suffer with mental and behavioral health conditions receive ongoing case management and counseling services.

In addition, five coordinator positions were created under the program. The coordinators can be assigned to various Fire districts, allowing them to get to know the communities, as well as provide coordination of the behavioral/mental health and crisis response teams.

Duran described the CAP as the “next level of care and support that we can provide our residents.” The funding, and the program, couldn’t come at a better time. He said that comparing 2019 to 2021, there was a 10 percent increase in calls for service, which equates to over 20,000 additional calls. The expanded CAP will help alleviate some of those calls.

At the late April District 3 meeting, Duran said, “I talk a lot about building relationships. We know, as a city, we can’t provide all of the resources and services to the community…we are such a growing, vast community here, and very diverse community. So, we rely upon partnerships and relationships to help serve the community and the needs of the community. Because, as they change, we change.”

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