Gilroy Critical Incident Mental Health Response Team

Start Date: 07/30/2019


The Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting occurred the late afternoon 7/28. An urgent request from a representative of the Bay Area Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) team requested HOPE teams to be available to AMR ambulance crews and first responders that evening. (A separate Event report covering this time has already been submitted by Jennifer Rose, which covered her and Christi Bragg's and their K9's involvement).

The same CISM representative requested HOPE participation for the morning of 7/30 to meet with the staff of the school attended by the 13-year-old student fatality of this shooting. Molly and I attended this 2-hour meeting at the Charter School (ACE). She had an enormous settling effect on the entire group of 15.

The next request for HOPE participation was made by Community Solutions, a nonprofit community agency affiliated with Santa Clara County’s local VOAD (CADRE) emotional and spiritual care team, to attend 2 simultaneously occurring community emotional support meetings on the evening of 7/31. Four HOPE K9 teams and 2 TLs responded to this, allowing us to staff both venues by evenly dividing our resources.
At both venues we encountered another AAT group called Love on a Leash. Our TL’s explained to the leadership of these groups that due to our insurance requirements, HOPE dogs were not allowed to be in proximity to other AAT dog-teams or work closely side by side. An agreement was reached to divide the room in half allowing for a buffer zone between the 2 K9 groups, not ideal, but under the circumstances felt to be acceptable. Note: One of the Love on a Leash volunteers was also a member of the Board of Directors for Community Solutions. A number of the AAT members expressed interest in learning more about HOPE and TL shared business cards and a brochure for further info.
The experiences were similar at both sites. This included a presentation by a lead counselor to the entire group of attendees followed by smaller breakout sessions of groups of 8-10 individuals, composed of a mix of the affected community as well as mental health professionals of various stripes.
All of the HOPE members circulated throughout the crowd before and after the gatherings. During the breakouts, dogs either moved among the smaller groupings of participants or were positioned in the center of the circle of chairs allowing the participants to interact with the dogs whenever needed for comfort and focus. As usual, the dogs did an amazing job; the comfort they brought was abundantly clear.

Agency: Community Solutions

Kathie Buaya (TL), Christi Bragg/Gertie, Martha Kessler/Oliver, Jennifer Rose/Lady Grace, Anna Swardenski (TL)