Community Response Teams
For DEPLOYMENT: Please contact Acute Services directly at 215-685-6440
The City of Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbilities Services (DBHIDS) has developed a city-wide Community Response Team made up of volunteers from all six (6) divisions in Philadelphia. The Community Response Teams are comprised of voluntary staff from one or more community mental health agencies and correspond to Philadelphia Police Divisions (see Annex A). As part of a coordinated response effort, these teams provide specialized crisis response services to communities affected by emergencies, disaster, or other events that require behavioral health intervention and support. CRTs are deployed and overseen by the Acute Services Unit of the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health.
By having CRTs in each of the six police divisions in Philadelphia, DBHIDS hopes to encourage team members to achieve greater intimacy with their immediate surroundings and a deeper understanding of the neighborhoods, including existing support services. With this novel CRT initiative, Philadelphia intends to 1) fill a gap in the demonstrated need for support to local communities following small-scale disasters or traumatic events, 2) build capacity for larger, further-reaching events 3) train teams in widely accepted, evidence-informed trauma interventions with interoperability and mutual aid in mind, and 4) track team fidelity, performance, and experiences in order to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the program.
In the immediate aftermath of an event (0-48 hrs), Pychological First Aid will be the primary intervention used by the CRT, as needed. For responses that take place after the 48 hour window for PFA, a modified approach will be undertaken. This approach will consist of providing Crisis Counseling, which includes a compassionate presence for those affected and provides an outlet for people to express concerns. Additionally, psychoeducation, which would describe expected reactions to traumatic events, their impact on day to day life, how to intervene (i.e. relaxation techniques), will be provided as needed. Finally, referrals would be provided to those affected to community-based services. Follow-up for those given referrals are conducted 2 weeks and 6 weeks after an event.
Interventions designed for use after the initial 48 hours post-event focus on: 1) reducing stress, 2) supporting individuals and the impacted communities, 3) providing referral to necessary service supports, and 4) following-up with individuals to keep track of progress or further needs. Much of the CRT activity will fall in this response window. Crisis counseling is a strengths-based, outreach-oriented approach to helping disaster survivors access and identify personal and community resources that will aid the recovery process. It consists primarily of supportive, educational, face-to-face interventions with individuals and communities in their natural environments. Crisis counseling seeks to empower survivors through educating them about disaster reactions, teaching them coping skills, assessing their individual needs, and linking them to appropriate community resources.
The Community Response Team (CRT) program is coordinated by the Acute Services Unit within DBHIDS. Acute Services Unit delegates function as the focal point for requests for community support, and the delegates activate and deploy the teams. Deployments can be requested by the Police Department, by the Office of Emergency Management, by the CRT Team Leaders via Acute Services, or by virtually any community or city entity in Philadelphia. Teams do not respond to incidents of domestic violence or crime, to individual criminal acts, or house fires. But they do respond to Community Town Hall Meetings, Vigils and Memorial Services, Disaster Recovery Centers, Family Asssistance Centers following disasters, and other incidents that impact the larger community. Acute Services welcomes requests from Community NGOs, Recreation Centers, and Neighborhood Associations. Please contact Acute Services directly at 215-685-6440 to request deployment.
Participating Behavioral Health Provider agencies have each identified a CRT “point person” or Team Leader available 24/7 to take initial referral calls and to become knowledgeable about services and resources. The Team Leader deploys other CRT members as requested by the Acute Services Unit. DBHIDS continues to seek additional agency participation within its network and also continues to establish the buy-in of the other systems and agencies participating in the protocol (e.g. Police Department, School District, Department of Human Services, Office of Supportive Housing, and community victim services and advocacy agencies). CRTs primarily respond to events in their immediate Police Division and thereby have greater knowledge of the community to which they are responding.
For further questions about the Program, contact:
Sarah Powell, MA
Phillip DeMara, MSEd.
Director of Emergency Preparedness
City of Philadelphia
Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbilities Services
215-546-4110 ext 3355