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Purposed to address the behavioral crises of its citizenry, Dallas-based RIGHT Care Unit infuses mental health into law enforcement.

A call to 911 is often a coin flip, never knowing whether harm or help will arrive, but this unit looks to remove all doubt. Utilizing the Multi-Disciplinary Response Teams model, RIGHT Care explores previously unthought-of yet essential factors.

With the aid of a licensed professional, paramedic, and trained law enforcement, change has come to Dallas. When in crisis, this three-person team is deployed and arrives to address mental health or social needs. As a result, behavioral health emergencies are actually being managed by those most qualified to help.

mental health budget
Behavioral health professionals and paramedics on Street Crisis Response Teams are handling non-violent mental health calls instead of police under a San Francisco Department of Public Health pilot program. (Courtesy San Francisco Fire Department via Twitter)

Could this work nationwide?

According to the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, RIGHT Care teams responded to 6,679 calls from Jan. 29, 2018, to June 7, 2020. The analysis further discovered:

  • 40% resulted in a connection to some sort of community service, (i.e. a referral to health or housing services)
  • 29% were resolved on scene with no further services needed.
  • Only 14% resulted in emergency detention.
  • 8% resulted in a person being taken to a hospital or psychiatric facility.

What’s more, the report notes that in 130 of the team’s responses—only 2%—resulted in arrests for new offenses. Even in its short existence, a local Dallas hospital has seen a 20% decrease in mental health-related admissions.

Though there has been a concerted effort to highlight mental health recently, everyone is not prepared to fight the battles within. Healing those scars takes time and far too often, citizens have paid the ultimate price simply for not being able to manage an internal crisis.

Mental Health Scars Hurt Just as Bad.

For individuals experiencing a behavioral health emergency, untrained 911 respondents can unintentionally exacerbate an already volatile situation.

Understanding this, RIGHT Care also employs a licensed mental health professional to assist with deploying emergency dispatch. This is critically important because when in crisis, the type of help that arrives can make all the difference in one’s outcome.

As proof of its early success, Dallas has increased active units from nine three-person units to 15.  RIGHT Care is also nearly responding to 40% of mental health calls in the city and has plans to expand throughout Texas.

RIGHT Care could positively impact communities everywhere while redefining ‘Protect and Serve’ for law enforcement across America.

Hailing from Charlotte North Carolina, born litterateur Ezekiel J. Walker earned a B.A. in Psychology at Winston Salem State University. Walker later published his first creative nonfiction book and has...