A program intended to provide rapid responses to mental health emergencies is expanding to our neighborhood.

Beginning March 1, a team of RIGHT Care responders will serve the Dallas Police Department’s Northeast Division, which includes District 9 and 14 in East Dallas. The multidisciplinary team of police officers, Dallas Fire- Rescue paramedics and behavioral health clinicians will work with local hospitals and nonprofits to serve residents within the division. They will operate in two shifts spanning 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week.

The purpose is to divert mental health patients from area emergency rooms and jails by stabilizing them on the scene and getting them to preventative and intervention services that can meet their needs.

“This type of program shows how important it is to have a comprehensive approach to public safety,” District 9 Councilwoman Paula Blackmon said. “Assisting neighbors in a mental health crisis by responding to them appropriately helps provide better care for them AND frees up valuable time for our officers.”

A three-year pilot program launched in 2018 in south Dallas, where the city recorded the highest number of 911 mental health calls. Since then, there has been a nearly 30 percent decrease in mental health calls to 911 requiring an ambulance, Blackmon said.

Prior to the program, Dallas police had few options but to arrest individuals in crisis. Officers arrested nearly 1,700 people experiencing a mental health emergency in 2017. That number dropped to 659 in 2020, according to data provided by Blackmon.

The program has also saved the equivalent of at least one full-time police, or 75 weeks of time, which can be added back to patrol time.

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