DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Sean Harrison sued the City of Dallas three years ago over the fatal police shooting of his brother, Jason, who suffered from schizophrenia. “To bring to light where the system is broken when it comes to dealing with mentally ill people,” he said.
The lawsuit was dismissed, but his family’s call for change may finally be getting answered.
This week, Dallas launched a new program to improve its response to people struggling with mental health issues. “We knew there had to be something different. The way we go about our business, the way we handle these behavior health calls. We knew there had to be a better way,” said Assistant Police Chief Paul Stokes in a press conference announcing the program.
The Rapid Integrated Group Healthcare Team (RIGHT) consists of three-person teams including a police officer, a paramedic and a behavioral health specialist from Parkland Hospital.
“This approach doesn’t look to solve the crisis. It looks to solve the problem,” said B.J. Wagner with the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute.
The program aims to provide a specialized response that better serves the community while relieving some of the strain on the city’s emergency services.
In its first few days, the team is being credited with helping at least four people get transferred to mental health facilities. “Send the right guys out here. Just someone who understands the situation,” urged Harrison. He believes that, if better trained officers had knocked on his family door in 2014, his brother might still be alive.
The new effort, Harrison believes, is likely what his brother needed and what may spare someone else’s life in the future.