Called a 'model for success,' advocates seek to bring Durham's HEART program to Raleigh

Tom George Image
Wednesday, December 13, 2023
Advocates pushing to bring Durham's HEART program to Raleigh
Advocates pushing to bring Durham's HEART program to Raleigh

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- It has been touted as a model for success in Durham - the popular HEART program aimed at helping people in mental health crisis get the help they need instead of always relying on police.

For the past year and a half since launching in June 2022, the Holistic Empathetic Assistance Response Team (HEART) has been working with 911 call centers to get social workers and crisis teams to respond to non-emergency mental health calls. 8,000 plus calls later, it has been touted as a success, earning them a major expansion - they now cover the entire city and operate every day 12 hours a day.

Now it's getting a lot of attention down the road in Raleigh.

Dorine Martin is a mental health professional at Mindology Raleigh, and even off the clock living downtown, she sees the crisis firsthand. She says police are often not equipped to handle people she sees walking around downtown Raleigh in a mental health crisis.

"So it could be the way that they talk to them," Martin says. "So they don't feel the threat of the police."

She's among hundreds who have already signed on to give public feedback to the city of Raleigh, calling for a program similar to HEART to be created.

On the city's website, many left comments in support - Among the top comments: calling for professionals who are compassionate, empathetic, calm, trained to de-escalate situations and versed in trauma-informed care.

And Martin believes just like in Durham, if Raleigh builds it, there's an army of experts with a HEART ready to step in.

"You'll probably have an overwhelming response because if you're in this field you want to help people very empathetically, they need someone to identify what's going on with them and recommend their appropriate treatment," she says.

The public feedback website will be open until March 10th. In the meantime, the city is also having a series of in-person meetings where people can give their thoughts on alternative response programs.

The next one is this Saturday, December 16th at the Southgate Food Lion from 1 to 4 p.m.