419 – Holistic Assistance Response Teams (HART)

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I.             Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to provide the Harris County Sheriff’s Office with an internal set of guidelines for the dispatch of Holistic Assistance Response Teams (HART). This policy is not intended to provide the standard of care for any civil or other external proceeding and the determination of compliance with this policy is expressly reserved to internal proceedings within the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.

II.           Definitions

Call Triaging – A process used by the Emergency Dispatch Center when handling emergency and non-emergency calls. This process involves analyzing, coding, organizing, sorting, and allocating calls to the appropriate first responders. Its intent is to prioritize calls based on the level of urgency of the situation and to determine the most appropriate response.

Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) – A system used by dispatchers and call takers to prioritize and record incidents to effectively dispatch first responders.

Holistic Assistance Response Teams (HART) – A program of Harris County Public Health (HCPH),which consists of teams of social welfare, behavioral health, and emergency medical personnel who respond to  calls for service requiring face-to-face behavioral health and social welfare interventions. The common elements of all HART eligible calls are:

A.           No credible threat of violence,

B.           No evident display of violent or aggressive behavior,

C.           No visible or known weapons present.

HART Project Manager – The Project Manager position is responsible for working in partnership with Harris County Public Health (HCPH) to implement the Holistic Assistance Response Team (HART). The Project Manager will be an employee of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) and will work within the agency to develop dispatch policy, procedure, and safety training, collect and disseminate outcomes data, and support HCPH with coordination across local law enforcement and medical emergency services.

HART Call Screening Process – A process that enhances standard call triage protocols by asking additional and specific questions in order to further validate scene safety and determine eligibility / appropriateness for HART response.

HART TIME STAMP – Two unique time stamps within CAD which are added to the notes section of a call slip event by a HCSO Communications Officer indicating the call has been screened using the HART call screening process, and is:

A.           (HART) HOLISTIC ASST RESP TEAM – eligible for HART response.

B.           (NOHT) NO HOLIST ASST RESP TEAM – ineligible for HART response

Mobile Data Terminal (MDT) – Includes all computers that have access via wireless or hard-wired network to TLETS, TCIC, NCIC, or any law enforcement database. 

III.          Policy

HART is a program of Harris County Public Health (HCPH). The goal of the           program is: 

A.           To quickly provide the appropriate response to callers experiencing homelessness, behavioral health issues, or non-emergency health or social welfare concerns, and

B.           To reduce unnecessary law enforcement or hospital-based interventions for non-emergency calls.

As the primary Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) for unincorporated Harris County, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office is an important partner in the HART program. To ensure a safe and effective eligible call identification, triage, and dispatch process to HART, the following procedures have been established.

IV.          Procedure

A.           Assigning Calls for Service to HART:

Calls for service to be referred to HART units will be dispatched and otherwise managed by EDC per the HART Call Screening Process, which is described in Emergency Dispatch Center SOP 409. HART will not respond to calls which fail the screening process.

B.           MDTs and Radio

All HART vehicles are equipped with MDT(s). HART units are two-person units consisting of an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and a social worker who are equipped with HCSO handheld radios with assigned numbers that are provided to Watch Command daily.  There is no base radio in their vehicles. 

C.           On-Scene Safety and Documentation

If the HART unit determines the scene to be potentially unsafe, they will request backup from an HCSO unit. The communications officer will confirm the HART unit is under control and broadcast the request on the district radio channel. If the situation on scene changes and is no longer safe for the HART unit to remain on scene, the HART unit will fall back and stage and advise EDC of the new conditions.  A district patrol supervisor will be notified by EDC of the new conditions on the call.  A patrol supervisor or the responding unit will increase the response priority if appropriate per patrol policy.

If a HART Unit request HCSO assistance, Deputies will document the HART Unit Number, Dispatched Time, and On-Scene Time for the HART Unit.

D.           Vehicles

As HART vehicles are privately owned, HCSO Policy 804 Fleet Vehicle Crash does not apply to these vehicles. HART vehicles involved in a crash should be handled in accordance with Patrol Bureau SOP 402 – Traffic Crash Investigation.

Revision

This policy has been revised on the below listed dates:

June 1, 2024

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