LOS ANGELES, CA- Today Councilmember Bob Blumenfield introduced legislation to expand a unique program run by the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) that would change how mental healthcare and homeless related calls for service are addressed. As Blumenfield continues to work with other local leaders to craft comprehensive city-wide public safety reforms, this measure aims to grow the Advanced Provider Response Unit (APRU) program and calls for a new partnership with County’s Public and Mental Health Departments to bring swift changes to how some non-violent and non-life threatening situations are handled, especially those involving the most vulnerable Angelenos.
“We have begun conversations with advocates and community members to rethink traditional models for public safety but it’s critical to look at what programs we already have and see if we can bring more immediate change to our City,” said Blumenfield. “We send out too many sworn officers and full engine companies on calls that don’t need them because we simply don't have other specialized tools. Programs like the APRU can bridge the service gap because the status quo is not fair to our officers, firefighters and to those who desperately need help.”
In 2018, after Blumenfield helped secure funding through his committee’s Innovation Fund, the LAFD launched the APRU program. Staffed with an LAFD Firefighter/Paramedic and an Advanced Provider (Nurse Practitioner or Physician’s Assistant), the APRU offers a vast array of resources outside of the traditional paramedic scope of practice. This program offers three services:
- Mobile urgent care with on-scene treatment and release of low-acuity patients.
- Comprehensive assessment of 911 ‘super-users’ and vulnerable patients who can be linked to follow-up non-emergency care and needed services.
- On-scene medical clearance of mental health and intoxicated patients who can be transported directly to a mental health facility or sobering center, without burdening a local emergency room.
Currently the APRU has four teams strategically stationed throughout the City and is ripe for expansion of capacity and to include trained mental health and homeless service professionals. Building this program would relieve a massive burden placed on both the LAPD and LAFD who often are dispatched to non-violent calls simply because the City doesn’t have another service available 24/7 to address the needs of those who require assistance. For example in 2019, sworn LAPD officers were dispatched 20,598 times for calls involving mental illness and 15,544 for welfare checks, two types of situations that often do not require armed officers or full LAFD engine companies. In some dire situations an armed response may be required, but specialized services can address many specialized needs.
By charter, the County of Los Angeles handles almost all aspects of publicly funded mental and public health programs. But with issues like the growing homelessness epidemic, the reality is that often City entities have responded first to health-related matters such as mental health calls, injuries, and intoxication. The City of Los Angeles must think outside the box on how to make swift changes for the health and safety of the individuals who require appropriate assistance and to relieve the burden on the LAPD to respond to issues not requiring the presence of law enforcement.
While the City Council and local advocates discuss new ways to implement critical city-wide reforms, it’s also time to truly empower this unique program and immediately expand more affordable, efficient, and peaceful alternatives on how to handle non-violent calls or calls that involve an immediate life-threatening situation.
Seconded by Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Blumenfield’s motion specifically instructs LAFD, with the assistance of the City Administrative Officer (CAO), to present a plan to expand the Advanced Provider Response Units (APRU) from four to eleven, in order to cover more areas of the City and to respond to non-violent, non-criminal calls that would previously be responded to by the Police Department. It further calls on LAFD, with the assistance of the CAO, the County Department of Mental Health, the Los Angeles Homelessness Services Authority and any other City or County departments that are appropriate, to report on the resources needed to integrate mental health and social work professionals into the LAFD’s APRUs, to respond to a greater volume and type of non-violent and non-criminal calls.