The city of Dallas will soon start sending its behavioral emergency calls to a trained mental health response team.
The city’s new pilot program, called the Rapid Integrated Group Healthcare Team Care (or RIGHT Care, for short), is a collaboration between Parkland Health & Hospital System, the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, the Dallas Police Department, and the Dallas Fire-Rescue Department.
The program aims to use resources efficiently while enhancing safety, sending mental illness emergencies to on-call emergency personnel instead of to police officers, who are typically not trained for such tasks.
It’s expected to launch on Jan. 29.
The city will dispatch a RIGHT Care response team to evaluate the situation when a 911 call is placed. The team of professionals will consist of a trained police officer, a trained paramedic, and a behavioral health specialist from Parkland Hospital. A Parkland mental health clinician also will be stationed in the 911 call center to monitor calls and assist Dallas officers citywide.
Celeste Johnson, Parkland’s vice president of nursing services, behavioral health, said the program has already shown positive results. “During the beta testing phase of the program in Dallas, we already saw reductions in the number of patients going to local hospital emergency rooms for care for mental health problems,” she said. “During the beta … period, the majority of clients were taken to outpatient health centers rather than hospitals to get the help they need, including medication refills.”
Mental health emergencies are on the rise in Dallas, according to the city. The city receives nearly 15,600 behavioral calls a year—an 18 percent increase since 2012, according to data released in a December memorandum to the Public Safety and Criminal Justice committee. Of those calls, 59 percent required an ambulance. Annually, 17,000 people with mental illness are booked into Dallas County Jail, with 40 percent of them returning to the jail within a year of their release, the data shows.
The pilot program will be paid for by a $3 million grant provided by the W.W. Caruth Jr. Foundation at Communities Foundation of Texas.
The program, called a “safety blanket” for the city, is expected to free up law enforcement and allow it to focus more on public safety issues. It’s also expected to reduce recidivism rates and reduce costs.