Downtown Cleveland skyline bridge
Supporters of a non-police care response program in Cleveland have formed a coalition Care for CLE. Credit: Jeff Haynes / Signal Cleveland

Proponents of a non-police care response program in Cleveland have formed a coalition and launched a website – Care for CLE – to teach residents about the program and to ensure that creating it involves the community from the start. 

A care response program would have behavioral health providers, often social workers, as the first to respond to behavioral health crises in the community. 

The coalition brings together supporters from almost two dozen organizations, creating a central space to plan for a care response program. 

“And now we’re seeing this real momentum and galvanizing around, we can do it together, we can figure out effective collaboration, and we can build something that genuinely solves for root causes,” said Elaine Schleiffer, a founding member of the coalition. 

Planning a program that meets the needs of Clevelanders will require a lot of collaboration, Schleiffer said. 

Informed design

A May report recommended that Cuyahoga County “implement a community-based, unarmed Care Response program that will be rapidly available and staffed by behavioral health professionals and peers.”

Since Dr. Mark Hurst, a psychiatrist and healthcare consultant, presented the report to the county’s Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) Board, community members advocating for care response have created a coalition. Earlier this month, they launched a website.  

The coalition, formed in August, is gaining support. In two weeks, 19 partners joined, said  Schleiffer. 

Schleiffer told Signal Cleveland it is important that community members and experts from several organizations be involved in that planning, rather than letting just one government entity or one board plan without community input. 

“We need kind of a sandbox where people can dump in their particular expertise, the segment of the community that they serve, what they know their best practices are,” Schleiffer said. “And let that really inform program design for care response.”

Criminal Justice Reporter (she/her)
Stephanie, who covered criminal justice and breaking news at the Chicago Tribune, is a bilingual journalist with a passion for storytelling that is inclusive and reflects the diversity of the communities she covers. She has been a reporter and copy editor for local newspapers in South Dakota, Kansas and Arizona. Stephanie is also a Maynard 200 alumni, a Maynard Institute for Journalism Education training program for journalists of color that focuses on making newsrooms more equitable, diverse and anti-racist.