Caring for our community
The Community and Public Health Division encompasses mobile response teams such as CRT and multiple navigational programs that operate under the CARES umbrella.
About Our Division
The Community and Public Health Division (CPH) of the Colorado Springs Fire Department was formed to integrate EMS into the broader healthcare system to improve the health outcomes of individuals in need of non-emergency services.
The division came into being with the birth of the Community Assistance, Referral & Education Services (CARES) program in 2012. In the years following, our identity as an organization became synonymous with CARES, and although our division has grown and changed since then, we are still often referred to as “CARES”. However, in the years since the launch of CARES, the intensive navigation skills we’ve developed and the lessons we’ve learned have been adapted to fit other programs, allowing us to serve the needs of our community in new ways. As a result, we now view “CARES” as an intensive navigation umbrella that covers our various navigation programs serving super utilizers, older adults, and those experiencing homelessness—with more innovative programs to come!
To support our programs, CPH has established a foundation of community partnership and collaboration, bringing together various organizations to best address the region’s behavioral and health access issues. Through an innovative braided funding stream that has been developed over time, the CPH Division has drawn funding from varied sources including municipal tax revenue, non-profits, and for-profit organizations.
Today, the Community and Public Health Division encompasses mobile response teams such as CRT and multiple navigational programs that operate under the CARES umbrella.
Mission and Vision
The vision of the division is to professionally and compassionately help people receive the right care, at the right time, in the right setting, with the right resource by providing integrated navigation.
CARES and CARES Umbrella Programs
Community Assistance Refferal & Education Services (CARES)
CARES is a program which endeavors to assists frequent users of the 9-1-1 and emergency departments (6 visits to the ED or 6 9-1-1 calls within a 6-month period) in Colorado Springs with their physical, medical and behavioral health needs through outreach, assessment, connection to community resources and care navigation. Referred patients are offered the opportunity to participate in a voluntary intervention designed to find resources and address barriers to healthcare access; this intervention can last for up to 12 months. Commonly identified barriers include lack of adequate housing, food, transportation options, primary care physicians (PCPs), medical specialists, insurance, and behavioral health treatment. The CARES team consists of intake providers, medical navigators, and behavioral health clinicians. The navigation teams are designed to provide integrated intensive interventions to members who consent to treatment. This allows community resource providers to keep vulnerable populations healthy rather than only providing reactive emergency services.
Homeless Outreach Program (HOP)
In August 2019, CPH launched a limited pilot of the Homeless Outreach Program (HOP), which provides targeted, intensive outreach to high needs utilizers in downtown Colorado Springs. HOP operates in collaboration with CARES, the Colorado Springs Police Department’s (CSPD) Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) and Downtown Area Response Team (DART), the City of Colorado Springs Homelessness Prevention & Response Coordinator, Homeward Pikes Peak, The Place, and Coordinated Entry through Pikes Peak Community Health Partnership.
HOP conducts intensive outreach work with individuals experiencing homelessness who exhibit high-acuity behaviors in downtown Colorado Springs. Through rapport building, needs identification, and medical and behavioral health navigation, with the addition of housing assessment solicitation/completion and behavior modification, HOP is designed to increase access to healthcare and improve quality of life for targeted individuals. Although initially a pilot, HOP was expanded to full program status in 2020.
Aging in Place Program (APP)
In January 2019, we began a small pilot to provide support to elders struggling to age in place in their homes. By July of that year, the Next50 Initiative partnered with us through a grant to support and expand this program. The genius of the Aging in Place Program is that it maximizes the first responder’s role, as they are often first to recognize when a senior citizen is struggling to age in place. For instance, CSFD often receives 9-1-1 calls for “lift assist,” indicating that someone has fallen in their home and cannot get up. While in the home assisting the elder, first responders may observe home and living conditions that indicate the elder is in need of home care, nursing care, or other community-based support and services. The Aging in Place Program (APP) offers a way for CSFD to immediately begin to connect elders and their families with resources and support. Through CSFD referrals to APP, CPH plays an important role in leveraging first responder and co-responder roles to quickly identify elders in need, assist them in connecting to resources, teach them the necessary skills to continue appropriate self-care, and observe their success. Elders are then graduated back into independence to age gracefully and successfully or assisted in finding proper placement if they are unable to age safely in their home.
Community Response Team (CRT) Mobile Response Programs
The CRT program was developed to assist patients suffering from acute behavioral health crisis by employing cross-agency collaboration to integrate behavioral health services into the broader healthcare spectrum. Using the flexibility of emergency services, but with a mindset of healthcare integration, teams identify behavioral health needs and work to connect patients to a larger collaborative healthcare team. CRT engages patients that have extensive and often complicated diagnoses, who encounter significant medical, social, and behavioral health barriers posing potential risk to themselves or others and provides a progressive alternative to a strictly law enforcement response. Designed to respond to behavioral health crisis calls from 9-1-1 and the state crisis line, the CRT team decreases the time between a patient’s call for help and their receipt of definitive services. This eliminates prolonged and often detrimental emergency room stays where little to no behavioral health intervention or treatment is performed.
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Colorado Springs Fire Department, Community & Public Health
31 S. Weber, Colorado Springs, CO 80903