Oct 12, 2021 - News
Dallas police expand mental health response
A truck with the words EMERGENCY RESPONSE UNIT is parked in front of a Dallas Police squad car.
Photo: Mike Stone/Getty Images

This year’s massive Dallas budget includes an expansion of a mental health response team to handle 911 calls that don’t require a traditional police response.

Why it matters: After George Floyd’s murder in 2020, critics called for a drastic shift in city budgets to put more money into social services and not just into police departments.

  • RIGHT Care, short for “Rapid Integrated Group Healthcare Team,” started as a pilot program in 2018 and was expanded last fiscal year.
  • The newest expansion means there will be a team dedicated to each of the city’s patrol divisions.

Details: A team that includes a police officer, a paramedic and a behavioral health clinician will respond to mental health calls, freeing up other patrol resources. A clinician in dispatch ensures a RIGHT Care team is sent when necessary.

  • Mental health calls have historically been handled by four officers and a supervisor.
  • Clinicians give the team the option of connecting the person to help.
  • Dallas was the only recipient of a $175,000 large city award from the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which will go toward the program’s expansion.

What they’re saying: “Getting them out of the crisis they’re in without having to make the arrest is where we want to be,” David Pughes, a former assistant police chief who now oversees the city’s Office of Integrated Public Safety Solutions, tells Axios.

By the numbers:

  • There are 13,000 mental health calls in Dallas every year.
  • This year, 1,125 people have been diverted from the jail through RIGHT Care.
  • Between 2017 and 2019, psychiatric visits to Parkland’s emergency department grew by 30 percent, according to D Magazine.
  • ZIP codes where RIGHT Care was operating saw a 20 percent overall decrease in psychiatric admissions over the same period.

The bottom line: After a year of calls to “defund the police,” the new city budget actually increases public safety spending. But the added RIGHT Care funding shows an investment in social services.

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