Dallas Works to Avoid Sending People in Crisis to Emergency Rooms or Jails
Date:  12-20-2020

Pilot program shows early success in rethinking responses to mental health emergencies
From Pew Charitable Trusts:

This article was edited on December 10, 2020 to clarify the number of bookings into jails each year rather than the number of people booked.

In communities across the United States, police, jail officials, and emergency room physicians too often provide the only services available around-the-clock to respond to people with untreated mental illness or substance use disorders. However, a team in Dallas has been piloting a new multidisciplinary approach so that people can get the help they need—and stay out of the criminal justice system.

Most cities and towns continue to rely on law enforcement as the first response to people in crisis. This practice contributes to more than 2 million bookings into jails each year of people with serious mental illness. Criminal justice stakeholders and mental health advocates say sweeping policy changes are needed to focus on safe crisis response interventions that can reduce the role of police in managing calls related to behavioral health emergencies while creating access to services and assuring public safety.

The default to police, jails, and emergency rooms has proved costly and typically prevents people from accessing evidence-based treatments to address their mental health needs safely. Even before this year’s calls to rethink approaches to law enforcement and associated funding, a pilot program in Dallas—the Rapid Integrated Group Healthcare Team, or RIGHT Care—has focused on addressing health needs first. The program model, in place since 2018, redefines the city’s response to those in crisis, redirecting many from the justice system to community-based services. And that shift appears to be working. Continue reading >>>