Officials discuss CARES program to help address mental health calls to 911

CHARLOTTE — At the Charlotte City Council’s schedule meeting Monday night, officials talked about a proposal to have someone with a mental health background respond to 911 dispatch.

A group behind the effort said dispatchers will be trained to send a physician and paramedic, instead of a police officer, to non-emergency 911 calls.

The Charlotte City Council approved moving forward with the Civilian Assistance Response Engage Support (CARES) team.

Their goal is to help people struggling with mental illness, substance abuse issues and homelessness.

It would only apply to certain low-risk 911 calls, such as calls that don’t involve a weapon.

Program leaders said at least two people will respond, including a mental health clinician and a paramedic.

The CARES team plans to connect patients to resources, such as counseling, transportation to treatment and non-emergency intervention.

Robert Dawkins with Action NC hopes to see the program near uptown Charlotte and the Beatties Ford Road corridor by the end of summer.

“This program gives people help that they’re needing by training clinicians in non-violent situations, and it saves the police department the time that they could be using on other services,” said Dawkins, political director. “So it’s a win-win.”

(Watch the video below: Charlotte to gauge interest in program that prevents sending police to mental health calls)