The city of Mesquite announced its partnership on Tuesday with the cities of Balch Springs, Seagoville and Sunnyvale to address the mental health needs of residents.
This is one of the first partnerships of multiple cities in Dallas County to address mental health needs.
Representatives from the four cities as well as Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price met on Tuesday at the Balch Springs Civic Center to present to the communities their plan to address residents’ mental health needs.
City Manager Cliff Keheley, Mayor Bruce Archer and councilmembers Dan Aleman, BW Smith and Kenny Green were present at the conference.
Discussions revolved around the creation of a team of social workers and public safety officers to address residents’ needs. The Southeast Alliance Community Care Team will be a unified approach towards meeting residents’ mental health needs. It will focus on proactive and reactive mental health services modeled after similar programs around the country. Services will include checking in on residents with a history of mental health issues to ensure they are receiving the treatment and services needed and helping homeless individuals who may not have access to mental health services.
Mesquite’s Mental Health Coordinator Melissa Carr said the program will be divided into three phases. The first phase will focus on meeting the needs of residents in the partnering communities and partnering with nearby mental health clinics to ensure residents receive proper treatment. The second phase will revolve around meeting the needs of homeless individuals through a partnership between the Southeast Alliance Community Care Team, local first responders and nonprofits. The third phase will be training social workers involved in the team, so they can understand the communities as first responders do and more readily provide needed care to residents.
Dallas County issued a $900,000 grant that will help support the Southeast Alliance Community Care Team. The grant will cover the cost of a vehicle and supplies, salaries for two team members and funding for all four cities to train every police officer, firefighter and dispatcher in crisis response so that each mental health call is handled in a compassionate manner.
Keheley said discussions revolving around meeting residents’ mental health needs began during the summer of 2020.
“It was during this discussion that we learned of a program in Oregon that had a tremendous impact in reducing on police officers in responding to people in mental health crisis,” he said. “These teams are not only able to respond to people in crisis, but they proactively work with residents to follow up on issues and provide transportations to provide the care they deserve. The result in these cities that adopted this policy was a significant drop in the number of police department responses in mental health problems.”