New Documentary Highlights Community-Centered Crisis Response Program in Durham, NC
The film follows the new response team as they learn, collaborate and grow in the early days of building the program
DURHAM, N.C., April 17, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- The new documentary, "HEART: Serving Our Neighbors in Crisis," details the development and implementation of the HEART (Holistic Empathetic Assistance Response Team) program, a new public safety response within the Durham Community Safety Department (DCSD) that connects Durham neighbors to the right care — starting from the point at which someone calls 911 to the warm handoff to those who help meet the needs of neighbors in crisis. The project is a collaboration between the City of Durham and nonprofit research institute, RTI International and was funded by Arnold Ventures.
"We're excited to invite audiences into the challenges and triumphs we've experienced building this department and developing a new fourth response option in addition to fire, EMS, and police," said Ryan Smith, director of the DCSD. "The film provides an insider's view into the early days of HEART. We hope it helps spark conversations in our city and in communities across the county about the kinds of new responses we want available for ourselves and our neighbors when faced with behavioral health crises and other unmet needs."
The 35-minute film follows the new response team as they learn, collaborate and grow in the early days of building the program. It will premiere at The Carolina Theater in Durham, North Carolina, on Wednesday, April 19, at 7p.m. ET with a panel discussion following. Doors open at 6 p.m. The screening is free and open to the public; pre-registration is required via Eventbrite.
"Jurisdictions across the country have been working hard to identify, design, and implement innovative solutions to seemingly intractable public safety and wellbeing problems," said Marc Krupanski, director of criminal justice at Arnold Ventures. "There is growing, bipartisan recognition that approaches which rely primarily on traditional law enforcement have failed to solve the problem, have put an undue strain on police and an already over-burdened public safety system and can cause even more harms. The effort in Durham, North Carolina highlighted in this new documentary, offers a promising and innovative approach to working across government to innovate, coordinate, and address the needs of those who are often most vulnerable, marginalized and at risk of harm."
After a RTI study revealed that many of Durham's 9-1-1 calls were for nonviolent incidents, the city decided to pilot a program to further support community needs. As the city's newest public safety department, it is the first to be staffed with mental health clinicians, peer support specialists and EMTs working together to support neighbors in crisis.
Stephanie Hawkins, Ph.D., vice president of the Transformative Research Unit for Equity (TRUE) at RTI, said projects like this documentary are essential to reimagining a future we want to see.
"Shifting narratives are necessary when working to advance equity," Hawkins said. "This is an important story about a new approach to crisis response that can help transform narratives and mindsets about public safety."
The documentary began production in the fall of 2022 and was directed and produced by TRUE's Narrative Research and Community Engagement Lab at RTI.
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SOURCE RTI International