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Evaluation of Harris Center Crisis Call Diversion Program

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $862,371)

Emergency communication centers that receive and dispatch 911 calls for service (CFS) are in a unique position to intervene and respond to non–life-threatening mental health–related calls over the phone. Properly triaging and diverting 911 calls both minimizes unnecessary involvement with law enforcement and reduces use of costly emergency services. The Crisis Call Diversion (CCD) Program, operated by the Harris Center for Mental Health, in Houston, TX, diverts non-imminent risk calls with mental health issues away from the Houston Police Department (HPD) to phone counselors co-located in the emergency call center.

Since 2016, CCD has diverted more than 13,000 CFS; however, it has never been formally evaluated. RTI proposes to conduct a mixed-methods process and outcome evaluation of the CCD Program that will (1) document the program design, operations, and implementation, including CCD activities (e.g., triage, diversion) and outputs (e.g., concerns addressed, service referrals, safety plans); (2) assess how the triage criteria are applied to 911 calls and if they are applied with fidelity; (3) assess the impact of CCD on system outcomes, including negative interactions (e.g., incident reports, arrests, and use force) and time saving for officers and callers; and (4) understand if there is equity in mental health CFS and accessing CCD services.

We will achieve Objectives 1 and 2 through a process evaluation that will use document review, key informant interviews, focus groups, a survey of 911 call-takers, and CCD administrative data. We will achieve Objective 3 using a quasi-experimental design that relies on secondary data from 911 Computer-Assisted Dispatch records, HPD Record Management System Incident reports, and CCD administrative data. We will address Objective 4 using census block data, 911 Computer-Assisted Dispatch records, and CCD administrative data.

The proposed study will directly benefit the Harris Center and partners by providing them with critical information on the program’s operations and implementation and an independent and rigorous quantitative assessment of the program’s impact. The proposed study will also benefit the field by providing a road map for other communities interested in implementing crisis call diversion programs. The evaluation will include a focus on practices and process to ensure knowledge generated from study will be transferable to other communities.  We will produce materials that provide communities with information on crisis call diversion workflow, including identifying pain points and challenges associated with implementing and maintaining fidelity to a CCD protocol.

Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law," and complies with Part 200 Uniform Requirements - 2 CFR  200.210(a)(14). CA/NCF

Date Created: September 27, 2022