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TFD Cares

The City of Tacoma (COT) Fire Department serves the community in both emergency and non-emergency medical service capacities. Starting in 2012, the COT Fire Department started providing non-emergency medical services to assist community members beyond a traditional 911 emergency medical service (EMS) call.


TFD CARES is the Fire Department's Non-Emergency Medical Service

COT Fire Department’s non-emergency medical service is known as CARES. CARES stands for Community Assistance Referral and Education Service. It is an expanded fire department-based service supported by Washington State Legislation (RCW 35.21.930). The COT Fire Department provides CARES services to ensure public safety and includes it as a long-term strategic initiative for the department. The CARES Program is available to those residing in Tacoma, Fife, and Fircrest.


Case Management

The COT Fire Department recognizes a person’s need for medical help can extend beyond a 911-EMS response and sometimes that need can perpetuate over-use of 911 EMS. Over-use of 911 EMS by individuals, agencies, and multi-family addresses can have a major impact on emergency response times. COT Fire Department non-emergency medical services work to educate on the appropriate use of 911-EMS, mitigate over-use of the 911 EMS system, and assist people in obtaining appropriate medical resources and services. A priority for the department is to ensure community members stay safe and healthy in their homes and in the community. To accomplish this priority the focus of non-emergency medical services is to:

  1. Assist individuals in making healthy choices and connect with needed health services. Health services include physical health (chronic illnesses, etc.), mental health and well being, chemical dependency (opioid, alcohol, etc.), and social (food, transportation).


In addition to one to one directed services, CARES also partners with local facilities to address population overuse of 911-EMS. Other priority services include:

  1. Partner with multi-family addresses to generate strategies to assist residents with health and social needs.

  2. Partner with local community health and social services to support community-wide efforts to ensure the safety of our citizens and improve the health of our community.

Behavioral Health Mobile Team

Tacoma Fire Department and Tacoma Police Department have partnered to coordinate a crisis response team to support first responders and community interactions with a patient suffering from acute behavioral and/or substance abuse needs. This team is equipped with licensed Designated Crisis Responders and behavioral health case management who are able to assess acute needs and determine and execute plans for the individuals moving forward.


Behavioral Health Agency

In November of 2019, TFD became the first fire department in the nation to become a licensed behavioral health agency (BHA) which will allow them to further fulfill the needs of their community. The addition of this license allows for staffing growth, specifically social work case managers and mental health professionals.  The case manager or mental health providers can co-respond or self-dispatch and arrive on the scene with first responders. Becoming a BHA will allow the City of Tacoma to intentionally address the crises occurring in their community every day and will help increase first responders’ ability to call on the right team member, and to provide the right care option, at the right time. 


Special Projects

Mobile opioid use disorder treatment is available as a part of a multi-faceted project to address the Pierce County Opioid Crisis. Additional information can be found here.


For additional information, contact TFD CARES Program Manager, Laura Morris at (253) 591-5201 or by email at lmorris@cityoftacoma.org.