Following last year’s successful launch of the City of Durham’s HEART Program, which offers alternatives to sending law enforcement to help people experiencing mental health crises or other quality-of-life concerns, the program is now expanding its service area and hours.
What You Need to Know
- Beginning October 23, HEART will provide services to all locations within the city limits seven days a week for 12 hours each day, including holidays.
- Although the program is expanding, nothing will change about how to receive the service. Residents need to call 911, answer the call-taker’s questions, and the Durham Emergency Communications Center will send the most appropriate and available response team.
- Service expansion is possible due to the recent hiring of 19 new employees whose positions were funded during the FY23-24 budget.
- More Social Work, Peer Support, and Emergency Medical Services professionals are needed.
Starting Monday, October 23, 2023, the Community Safety Department’s HEART Program, which stands for Holistic Empathetic Assistance Response Team, will provide services to all locations within the Durham city limits and will be available to help people seven days a week for 12 hours each day, including holidays.
The service expansion is thanks to the addition of 19 new HEART members who were recently hired following the City’s budget development process when funds are allocated for City programs and projects. At that time, in addition to strong community input, the Community Safety Department showed that more staff were needed to serve more residents.
“We were happy that HEART was able to serve our neighbors in many ways through over 8,000 responses as we pilot-tested the program this past year,” said Community Safety Director Ryan Smith. “We saw over that time that the need for our services was even greater. Now, with additional staff, we are prepared to move all four HEART Programs from just weekdays in only one-third of our city to citywide seven days a week, including holidays.”
HEART's four crisis response units, which cover various services that help people in crisis are:
- Crisis Call Diversion, which connects callers to a mental health clinician in the Durham Emergency Communications Center.
- Community Response, which dispatches unarmed three-person teams as first responders, instead of police, for non-violent mental health crisis or quality-of-life concerns.
- Co-Response, which sends a mental health clinician with a Crisis Intervention Team trained police officer for higher risk calls.
- Care Navigation, which provides in-person and/or phone-based follow-up to connect residents to additional support services, if needed.
“The Durham Police Department continues to be fully supportive of the HEART Program and sees this expansion as a way to offer more support to our residents experiencing a mental health crisis,” said Police Chief Patrice Andrews. “We value our partnership with the program because it enables us to focus on more appropriate law enforcement needs throughout our community.”
Although the program is expanding, nothing will change about how to receive the service. Residents need to continue to call 911, answer the call-taker’s questions, and the Durham Emergency Communications Center will send the most appropriate and available response team.
According to Smith, while the HEART Program is now expanding their service, continuing to grow this team to be at full capacity is still needed to meet community needs. “HEART has hired enough staff to expand, but we are not yet at full capacity. If HEART staff are busy on other calls and unavailable to respond, the Durham Emergency Communications Center will send the next most appropriate responder to ensure a timely response to those emergency calls,” Smith said.
The program needs more trained Social Work, Peer Support and Emergency Medical Services professionals to complete the team, Smith said. For more information about the program, including to apply for open positions, visit the Community Safety Department webpage.