It’s the City’s newest department, and it’s responsible for addressing some of Sacramento’s most complex issues, including homelessness, mental and behavioral health and violence prevention.
The Department of Community Response began to take form in July 2020 at the direction of the City Council as an alternative response model for 911 calls that do not require the police or fire departments. Not long after, Bridgette Dean, a licensed clinical social worker, was hired to lead the department, which was fully funded last month as part of the City’s annual budget process.
Launching a new department is no small task. Dean hit the ground running, hiring staff and organizing her department into three main offices that already are serving the public. They are:
- The Office of Community Outreach: Led by Jed O’Rourke, the Office of Community Outreach dispatches teams of social workers and service providers to 911 and 311 calls that don’t require a police or fire presence. DCR teams respond to behavioral health, substance-use disorder, family and youth problems and homelessness. They stabilize the situation and provide references, resources and other assistance. Several teams currently are answering calls. The goal is to provide daily coverage throughout the city by the end of the year.
- The Office of Homeless Services: Led by Nick Golling, the Office of Homeless Services operates most of the City’s shelters and other programs for people experiencing homelessness. This includes safe ground and safe parking sites, congregate shelters and the motel voucher program. This office is also working to open new sites identified in the Comprehensive Plan to Address Homelessness. Community Outreach and Homeless Services frequently work together to stabilize people experiencing homelessness.
- The Office of Violence Prevention: Led by Dr. Nicole Clavo, The Office of Violence Prevention works with community-based organizations (CBOs) that help young people avoid becoming involved in gangs in Sacramento. They also help people escape from the gang lifestyle. The Office of Violence Prevention offers grants and contracts and oversees the work contracted CBOs perform in the community.
DCR relies heavily on support from and coordination with other City departments, CBOs, the County of Sacramento and other agencies, Dean said. DCR teams call on police, fire and other departments if needed, and they respond to calls for help from those departments as well.
“Deescalating crises and offering assistance to people experiencing homelessness are not new concepts but creating a separate City department for that purpose is a new approach for Sacramento,” Dean said. “Our goal is to help people address the root cause of their crisis, and at the same time, free up police officers and emergency medical technicians to focus on calls that specifically require their skills training and experience.”