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ONE Wake's Mental Health Team has created a proposal to support an existing, community-driven effort to create a pilot Alternate Response Unit in Raleigh that would decrease the number of armed police encounters with community members experiencing mental health crises. This is an opportunity for ONE Wake to support the work of a coalition involving multiple organizations, led by Emancipate North Carolina (see the coalition website here). 

Modeled after the Durham HEART program, and similar programs across the nation, this pilot would include a unit embedded within our local 911 call center that would divert calls to assist non-violent people in Raleigh experiencing a mental health crisis with an unarmed team of clinicians and social workers, who would help stabilize the person in question, as well as to help them navigate a path to longer term care. 

This pilot would complement, not replace, existing programs in Raleigh like the ACORNS program and Crisis Intervention Training for law enforcement. 

A substantial number of 911 calls are related to mental health emergencies and are often non-violent. But, a mental health emergency can quickly escalate if the responder is not adequately trained to help a person in crisis.

An analysis of nearly 100 officer-involved shootings and use-of-force incidents across NC law enforcement agencies was conducted over the last eight years. The results show at least 39% of incidents involved a person experiencing a mental health crisis or a person with a history of mental illness.

Assuming Raleigh has a similar rate of mental illness, about 5% of the population, this means more than 23,000 of our residents are at a heightened risk of dying during a police encounter.  For Black people struggling with mental illnesses, armed police encounters are even more deadly. Black individuals experiencing mental illness are ten times more likely to be killed by police than white people who do not have a mental illness.

The Raleigh HEART pilot is a data-driven, well researched proposal to address this concern. Over 75 ONE Wake members recently participated in a listening session on February 29 to learn more about the pilot proposal. 

In order for this pilot project to proceed, the Raleigh City Council must vote to approve the pilot, and any necessary local funding. 

The Mental Health Team’s proposal is to organize one or more actions that deliver at least 50 ONE Wake members and Raleigh residents to a Raleigh City Council meeting to demonstrate a broad base of support for this proposal. We anticipate that the City Council will have this on their agenda sometime in late March or April and will make a call to action once the date of this meeting becomes known.