Community Safety

Durham Community Safety Department (DCSD) works to enhance public safety through community-centered approaches to prevention and intervention as alternatives to policing and the criminal legal system. In its second year, the department has three primary functions: piloting new response models for 911 calls for service, collaborating with community members to identify additional approaches to public safety, and managing and evaluating existing contracts and external partnerships intended to advance public safety. 

introducing Durham's new crisis response pilots 

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Beginning the week of June 27th, 2022, DCSD launched 3 new crisis response pilots that aim to connect people experiencing non-violent mental health crises or quality of life concerns with the right care by sending new responses that better match residents’ needs. A fourth pilot will launch later this year. Our goal with these pilot approaches is to connect Durham residents to the right care — starting from the point at which someone calls 9-1-1, to the warm handoff to those prepared to help meet the needs of our neighbors in crisis. 

The 4 new crisis response pilots are:

  1. Crisis Call Diversion (CCD): CCD embeds mental health Clinicians in Durham's 9-1-1 call center. 
  2. Community Response Teams (CRT): CRT dispatches unarmed 3-person teams as first responders to non-violent behavioral health and quality of life calls for service.
  3. Care Navigation (CN): Care Navigators follow up with people within 48 hours of meeting with one of our first responders to help connect to the community-based care they need and want.   
  4. Co-Response (CoR): CoR pairs Clinicians with Police Officers to respond to behavioral health calls for service that pose a greater potential safety risk. We will provide more details on this pilot closer to its launch date, later this year. 


These new first response teams will operate under the name of HEART, which stands for Holistic Empathetic Assistance Response Teams. HEART responders will wear a distinct logo on their apparel and vehicles to help distinguish them in the community.


Learn more about how each HEART pilot works, below: 


Crisis Call Diversion embeds licensed mental health clinicians into Durham’s 911 Call Center to triage, assess, and respond to behavioral and mental health related calls for service.

Pilot Goals: 

  • Connect callers who are experiencing mental or behavioral health crises to the right response and care based on their needs. 
  • Divert appropriate behavioral and mental health related calls for service away from unnecessary in-person responses or interactions with the criminal justice system. 
  • Reduce risk of harm when responding in-person to mental health crises.

Crisis Call Counselors embedded in our 911 call center serve 8 major functions:

  1. Assess 911 callers’ needs, complete safety plans, and help identify the appropriate response. 
  2. Divert non-emergent crisis calls that do not require an in-person response. 
  3. Connect people to resources (including 988) to support with future mental health-related needs. 
  4. Dispatch Community Response Teams as appropriate. 
  5. Consult with 911 dispatchers, providing information that can support better outcomes. 
  6. De-escalate situations prior to the arrival of first responders.
  7. Support first responders in the field as unanticipated mental health related issues arise. 
  8. Follow up with callers after a crisis to check in and help connect them to any services that might be needed.

For answers to some common questions about each crisis response pilot, read below or click the image to view this information as a printable document: 

DCSD HEART pilot overview  Opens in new window

What does this pilot do?

Crisis Call Diversion (CCD)
Adds clinicians to our 9-1-1 call center so we can quickly connect you to a mental health professional when you or a loved one is experiencing a behavioral health crisis
Community Response Teams (CRT) 
Dispatches unarmed, 3-person teams as first responders instead of police when you call 9-1-1 about non-violent mental health crises or quality of life concerns
Care Navigation (CN)

Provides in-person or phone-based follow-up within 48 hours after meeting with one of our responders when you need additional support connecting to care

Who is staffing each pilot?

Crisis Call Diversion (CCD)
Licensed mental health clinicians
Community Response Teams (CRT) 
Licensed mental health clinicians, peer support specialists and EMTs
Care Navigation (CN)

Licensed mental health clinicians and peer support specialists

When might I interact with this pilot?

Crisis Call Diversion (CCD)
When you call 9-1-1
Community Response Teams (CRT) and Care Navigation (CN) 

When you need an in-person response to a 9-1-1 call and live in the pilot service area.

Can I request this response?

All pilots: Residents should not worry about how to request the right response. Please continue to call 9-1-1 and Call Takers will route the call to the appropriate responder based on the needs of the caller.

Where does this pilot operate?

Crisis Call Diversion (CCD)
Durham citywide 
Community Response Teams (CRT) and Care Navigation (CN) 
In 12 police beats (111, 114, 112, 113, 122, 214, 223, 411, 413, 511, 512, 513) represented in this pilot service area map

What are the hours of operation?

Crisis Call Diversion (CCD)

Mon–Fri, 8am–4:30pm

Community Response Teams (CRT) 
Mon–Fri, 8:30am–4:30pm 
(We plan to add evening and weekend hours in the coming months)
Care Navigation (CN)

Mon–Fri, 8:30am–4:30pm 

What kinds of calls are eligible for this pilot?

Crisis Call Diversion (CCD)
Suicide Threat, Mental Health Crisis, and other calls involving behavioral health concerns
Community Response Teams (CRT) 

Suicide Threat, Mental Health Crisis, Trespass, Welfare Check, Intoxicated Person, Panhandling, Nuisance, Prostitution, Public Indecency and Lost Person calls where the person is not in possession of a weapon or physically violent toward others. Care Navigators (CN) will follow up with residents after an initial interaction with one of our CCD or CRT staff.

How were these pilots developed?

All pilots have been developed with much careful planning that was, and will continue to be, highly collaborative, community-informed, data-driven and evidence-based.

Is Durham the first to do this?

Crisis Call Diversion (CCD)
No. Durham is the first in the State of North Carolina, but some other U.S. cities with this program include Houston, Austin, Charleston, and Philadelphia
Community Response Teams (CRT) 
No. Durham is the first in the State of North Carolina, but some other U.S. cities with this program include San Francisco, Portland, Denver, and Albuquerque
Care Navigation (CN)

No. Some other U.S. cities with this program include Raleigh, Greensboro, and San Francisco

How can I stay informed about these pilots?

We will post monthly dashboards that will provide a lot of data and information on each pilot. The first dashboard will post the last week of August 2022. 

What kind of uniforms will they wear and how can I identify them?

HEART responders will not wear a traditional “uniform” and instead wear matching teal shirts with distinctive logos to help you identify them in the community. Keep an eye out for HEART staff and their vehicles: HEART logo and identity Opens in new window

How will teams be able to communicate with residents who don't speak English, or are hard of hearing? 

HEART currently uses an interpretation service that allows them to immediately connect with an interpreter over phone and video in over 240 languages, including ASL. The team is also actively working to recruit applicants who are fluent in Spanish. 

Have more questions? View our FAQ page for answers to other commonly asked questions about the Department and these pilots. 

  1. Department Careers


As a new department, Community Safety will be growing a lot over the next year. We are looking for individuals committed to this department’s mission and who want to be part of work that reduces harm, is highly collaborative, people-centered, equity-oriented, data-driven, and trauma-informed. 

The majority of our positions will be dedicated to piloting new response models to a subset of 911 calls. These positions may have backgrounds as social workers, licensed clinicians, qualified mental health professionals, peer support specialists, counselors, case managers, and EMTs.

If you are interested in joining our team, please check our current job openings.

  1. Department Priorities
  1. department Background