El Centro de Libertad


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The City of Half Moon Bay and El Centro launch CARES pilot program

Photo credit: Eric Dentler


El Centro de Libertad is excited to announce the launch of the CARES pilot program. In partnership with the City of Half Moon Bay, the Crisis Assistance Response and Evaluation Services Team hit the pavement yesterday, Wednesday, March 16, 2022 following the ribbon cutting ceremony. 

“It’s time for us to really hone in on the right services for the right type of issue,” Matthew Chidester, Deputy City Manager for the City of Half Moon Bay, said. “I think the CARES Team is the right type of response to mental health crises because it brings them into a network of care as opposed to a hospital or into the criminal justice system.” 

The CARES Team is composed of a Mental Health Clinician and a certified Emergency Medical Technician, both supervised by El Centro’s Clinical Director (LCSW). The CARES Team will respond to low level mental health related 911 calls as an alternative to traditional emergency service responders. These include mental health-related calls such as welfare checks or suicidal ideation. The pilot project is set to run for 12 months, starting at five days per week, eight hours per day, and ultimately running for seven days a week, on some days for 14 hours a day. 

This program is the first of its kind in California. Community members, like the Serrano family of the Moonridge community in Half Moon Bay, have been advocating for a program like this for years. Seven years ago, Yanira Serrano was fatally shot by a deputy responding to a 911 call for help.

“We don’t know if this program could have saved my sister’s life seven years ago,” Tony Serrano, Yanira’s brother, said. “All I know is it will save many lives and restore the confidence to make a call for help.”

Upon arrival, the scene will be immediately assessed to determine if the CARES response is sufficient, or a higher level response is required. The CARES Team will begin immediate de-escalation and assessment to create and maintain scene stabilization. Afterwards, referrals and warm handoffs will be made to partner agencies and holistic follow up visits will be done the next business day to ensure connections have been made between agencies, clients, and the client’s support network.

“Thank you all for being here today celebrating this victory. A victory for the family, but for the entire community,” Serrano said. “For the last seven years we have fought for the opportunity to have an alternative to police intervention during a mental health call, and today I can say that we did it.”

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