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. Entering its third year, the department has three primary functions: continuing to develop and expand 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. 

HEART logo


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On June 27th, 2022, DCSD launched 3 new crisis response units 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 unit launched at the end of September 2022. Our goal with these approaches is to connect our Durham neighbors 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. 

These first response teams operate under the name of "HEART" (Holistic Empathetic Assistance Response Teams). 

HEART's 4 crisis response units 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 after 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 Durham police officers to respond to certain calls for service that pose a greater potential safety risk. 

Scroll down this page to learn more about each HEART unit.


Community Safety tracks and shares data about each of the HEART units at Click the image below (left) to view the most up-to-date information on our data dashboard. The Monthly Data Cards (right) provide an easy-to-read overview of HEART responses each month. 
HEART_data-dashboard Jan 19 2023 Opens in new window
HEART program September 2023 data card


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.


  • 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 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 common questions about each HEART crisis response unit, scroll down.

HEART pilot overview thumbnail Opens in new window

What does this HEART unit do?

Crisis Call Diversion (CCD) adds clinicians to our 911 Call Center so we can quickly connect you to a mental health professional when you or a loved one is experiencing a behavioral health crisisCommunity Response Teams (CRT) dispatch 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 concernsCo-Response (CoR) dispatches clinicians along with CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) -trained Police Officers to higher risk 911 calls involving mental health crises or quality of life concernsCare Navigation (CN) provides in-person or phone-based follow-up after meeting with one of our responders when you need additional support connecting to care

Who is staffing each unit?

Crisis Call Diversion (CCD)
Licensed mental health Clinicians
Community Response Teams (CRT) 
Licensed mental health clinicians, peer support specialists and EMTs
Co-Response (CoR) 
Licensed mental health Clinicians (in partnership with Durham Police Department CIT-trained Officers)
Care Navigation (CN)

Licensed mental health clinicians and peer support specialists

When might I interact with this unit?

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

When you need an in-person response to a 9-1-1 call and live within Durham city limits.

Can I request this response?

All HEART units: 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 unit operate?

All programs now operate Durham citywide 

What are the hours of operation?

Crisis Call Diversion (CCD)

7 days a week, 9am–9pm

Community Response Teams (CRT) 
7 days a week, 9:15am–11:45pm
Co-Response (CoR) 

7 days a week, 6am–9pm

Care Navigation (CN)

7 days a week, 9am–9pm 

What kinds of calls are eligible for this response?

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, Urgent and Non-urgent 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.

Co-Response (CoR) 

Attempted suicide; Custody issue; Involuntary commitment; and any of the following where there is an increased risk of violence and/or a weapon is present: Trespass; Intoxicated person; Panhandling / nuisance; Indecency / lewdness; Prostitution; Physical or verbal disturbance; Harassment; Threat; Reckless activity; Abuse; Threat; Domestic violence 

Care Navigators (CN) will follow up with our neighbors after an initial interaction with one of our staff from CCD, CRT, or COR.

How were these units developed?

All HEART units have been developed with much careful planning that continues to be highly collaborative, community-informeddata-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
Co-Response (CoR) 

No. Some other U.S. cities with this program include Denver, Houston, Raleigh, among others. While many cities' co-response programs run entirely out of their Police or Fire departments, Durham partners two public safety departments, Community Safety and Police. 

Care Navigation (CN)

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

How can I stay informed about the HEART program?

We post dashboards that provide data and information on each HEART unit. That dashboard is live and will continue to be updated and improved. 

What kind of uniform does HEART wear and how can I identify them?

HEART responders do 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 neighbors who don't speak English, or are hard of hearing? 

HEART currently has two Clinicians and one Peer Support Specialist who speak fluent Spanish and the team uses an interpretation service that allows them to immediately connect with an interpreter over phone and video in over 240 languages, including ASL. 

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


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.