Tuesday, April 5, 2022 8:10 PM
Twenty-three calls in February to the Warsaw-Wayne Fire Territory were for Community Assistance, Resources and Emergency Services (CARES).
“CARES is picking up, it’s getting busier and busier,” Fire Chief Garrett Holderman told the WWFT board at their meeting on Tuesday.
The CARES program, which started a few years ago at the suggestion of Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer after seeing a similar program in Carmel, is the Territory of Fires initiative to help those in need of mental health help. or other types of assistance, such as dealing with domestic violence. climbing, wellness checks, home security visits, etc. A CARES response typically stems from a call to 911. In addition to WWFT, partner agencies include the Bowen Center, Warsaw Police Department, Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Office, and Lutheran EMS.
EMS Chief Chris Fancil and retired Fire Chief Mike Wilson worked to get CARES up and running.
Fancil told the board on Tuesday, “We met with the mayor a few weeks ago and had a good chat with the new fire chief and talked about the CARES program and what it means and what we try to make it. It became pretty obvious that there would be a small start-up cost on top of the salary of the employee we hope to fill this position soon. I know Chief (Garrett) Holderman has been working with (Human Resources) and the Mayor to define this position, so hopefully it gets done fairly quickly.
He said the overheads they discussed were — based on conversations with WPD, the DA’s office and the Bowen Center — included body cameras for CARES people, cameras possibly in vehicles and may -be vests to protect CARES workers. Although he said they wanted to keep their people safe, they also didn’t want to look like policemen. Basic medical equipment would also be part of the costs.
“We had an incident just today actually where we were great with a gentleman. He had anxiety issues. We were having a great conversation. As soon as we walked out and PD was there his anxiety skyrocketed to about 1,000 points,” Fancil said. “So we want to be able to be safe, but we also want it to be hidden.”
The total cost of the equipment was estimated between $15,000 and $20,000. Fancil said he met with the K21 Health Foundation on Monday, which was interested in helping the CARES program with equipment costs. He asked Council members for their permission to apply for a grant through K21 to cover start-up costs.
Fancil said Thallemer had the foresight to use the American Rescue Plan Act to hopefully pay the salary of the individual coordinating CARES, but the grant would help cover equipment costs. The next K21 grant application deadline is May 1.
The WWFT Board of Directors only had to approve the grant application.
He said there were state and federal grants that they would also pursue.
Fancil also reported that they were also on the Mobile Integrated Healthcare subcommittee roll this Friday in Indianapolis to gain their “blessing” to be an MIH provider in the state. “This is the first step for us to take this grantmaking opportunity to another level,” he said.
Regarding the CARES program, Fancil said, “Like the mayor said, it’s crazy right now. We responded everywhere in our territory. We have provided some answers to help the county in certain situations where they have asked for our help. It’s a bit difficult to refuse a request, especially for a child who is in a mental health crisis. I’m not one to say, ‘No, I’m not going to do this because it crossed a line.’ We certainly try to stay on our turf because that’s our number 1 responsibility, and we certainly do, but it’s kind of hard to turn it down because we’re human beings and we want to help people, so we respond from time to time outside of this area.
Speaking with Sheriff Kyle Dukes and some of his officers, Fancil said the CARES program might have a parallel version in the county.
“But we’re definitely piloting it, and if our results are anything, it’s been incredibly helpful to that community. We have great relationships that we have already established with the Bowen Center, Fellowship Missions, hospitals,” he said, adding that they provide people with the resources and help they need. “Our numbers keep going up.”
After the WWFT board approved the grant application to K21, Thallemer said they deliberately took their time rolling out the CARES program.
Board member Brandon Schmitt acknowledged the “fantastic” work that has been put into the program and how much Fancil and Wilson clearly care about it.
“I was a little skeptical at first thinking we were going to pull the guys out of the fire engines, which we don’t have the capacity to do being understaffed, but when we’re able to respond to that kind of need without taking the firefighters off the trucks, I just see it blossoming into something great for our community,” Schmitt said.
Fancil also informed the Board of a scannable QR code for smartphones that is being developed for the CARES program in partnership with Fellowship Missions. He said he hopes it will eventually be on the back of police business cards so they can get in touch with people who may need a CARES person or other resource, the QR code can help them. help direct them to the help they need. The QR code directs users to a CARES webpage that Fellowship Missions executive director Eric Lane developed with 1-800-Media.
For CARES assistance, call 574-453-7901 Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. After hours calls will be returned the next business day. Anyone facing an emergency should call 911.
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