Graham Fire & Rescue Launches CARES Program to Meet Evolving Community Needs

May 26th, 2023

On April 1st, 2023, Graham Fire & Rescue launched a partnership with Central Pierce Fire & Rescue to bring CARES (Community Assistance, Referral and Education Services) to its community.

The program works by training first responders to recognize when individuals may be better served by accessing community resources than by calling 9-1-1. These may include individuals who are experiencing homelessness, struggling with addiction or mental health issues, facing barriers to aging in their own home, or other challenges that do not require emergency medical attention.

When first responders identify these individuals, they connect them with the CARES nurses who can provide them with assistance and referrals to appropriate services. This not only helps to meet the individual’s needs more effectively but also reduces the strain on emergency services and frees up resources to respond to time sensitive emergencies.

“The CARES program represents a paradigm shift in the way we approach emergency services,” stated Assistant Chief of Emergency Medical Services Matt Waltrip. “By providing individuals with access to social services and resources, we’re addressing the underlying issues that may lead to individuals repeatedly calling 9-1-1.”

Central Pierce Fire & Rescue established its CARES program in 2019. The program is currently operated by two registered nurses, Shelley Rhone and Kelly Jones. Shelley and Kelly have extensive knowledge and experience in emergency nursing, case management, and a variety of other specialties including hospice, critical care, interventional radiology, and gastroenterology.

“We act as a conduit to long term resources,” stated CARES Program Manager Shelley Rhone. “With our help, a lot more people are able to find permanent solutions that can improve their quality of life.”

Rhone added that many people call 9-1-1 for non-emergency situations simply because they don’t know where to seek help.

Since April 1st, the CARES program has received more than 20 referrals for citizens needing assistance within the Graham community.

By providing individuals with the support and resources they need, Graham Fire & Rescue hopes the program helps to create a healthier, more resilient community while ensuring that emergency services remain available to those who need them most.