DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN)–The City of Durham is rethinking who shows up to certain 911 calls.
The city’s Community Safety Department and The Community Safety and Wellness Task Force hosted a crisis response virtual town hall on Monday.
Durham has four pilot programs for crisis response.
Ryan Smith, the Director of the Community Safety Department, went over those programs and asked people for their feedback before the programs rollout in a few months.
Those programs are embedding licensed clinicians into the 911 call center, teams of unarmed responders, co-response teams, and care navigators who provide follow-up care shortly after an incident.
The teams of unarmed responders received the most enthusiasm in a poll asking town hall participants how they feel about the four programs.
The team of three unarmed responders would go to mental health or behavioral health calls where there are no weapons.
“The goal of this pilot is to provide rapid trauma informed care, dispatched through 911 just like any other first responder, to non-violent behavioral health and mental health calls,” Smith said.
The co-response pilot program sends a Crisis Intervention Trained (CIT) Durham Police officer with a mental health professional on mental health calls where a weapon is present. Smith said an example would be a suicide threat call involving a weapon.
Some common things people in the town hall said they want to see are bilingual responders and how the pilot’s success will be evaluated.
The purpose of the town hall was not how to handle gun violence, but some attendees expressed concern about the rise in shootings, something Durham Safety and Wellness Task Force Co-Chair Xavier Cason addressed.
“Of course we’re talking about responses where there’s no armed officer needed in this case, but there is a hope down the road that because we’re doing more preventative measures that we can possibly have some effect on gun violence, but of course you know the way research goes, it’ll be a long time before you can say what that’s gonna be,” Cason said.
Smith said the pilots will only launch in certain areas at first due to staffing. Those areas are still being picked. He said the pilots should be up and running by late June or early July.
Cason said the task force plans to hold more town halls once the pilots are underway.