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Newport News emergency mental health unit looking for more recruits

The city launched the team last year to help limit police interactions during mental health crises.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Author's note: The video above is on file from a separate story about mental health care in Virginia Beach that first aired in February 2022.

For months, the CARE Unit in Newport News has been busy responding to about two calls a day.

It may not seem like a lot, but it adds up.

“I would say 400, easily at this point in time, for calls of service,” said Lieut. Andre Dorsey, the community paramedicine coordinator for the Newport News Fire Department.

The Community Assistance Response (CARE) program is made up of four mental health professionals. When the departments receive a mental health call, a paramedic and a mental health professional respond. A police officer is only there as backup.

Dorsey said when a team arrives on the scene, professionals assess what resources that person needs.

“Do we need to provide this individual resources with homelessness, on housing? Maybe some veteran status,” he said.

RELATED: Program in Newport News helps limit police interactions during mental health crises

They can decide if a person needs to go to the hospital to seek further medical attention.

Even though the team is fairly new, Dorsey said it’s time to grow.

“We’ve put forth in the budget to look at expanding the team,” he said.

He says additional personnel will help cover calls they receive late at night. The current team works a 10-hour shift from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

"That additional team would cover, I’ll say midday to later hours in the evening, possibly until 11 or 12 at night,” he said.

Dorsey said he’s sent that proposal to the City Council and is awaiting a response. The team expects to have a new CARE vehicle in the coming weeks.

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