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Harvard Kennedy School Government Performance Lab Announces 2022-2023 Alternative 911 Emergency Response Implementation Cohort

Thursday, August 18, 2022
Four Jurisdictions to Receive Targeted Technical Assistance to Advance Alternative Emergency Responses

CAMBRIDGE, MA – The Harvard Kennedy School Government Performance Lab (GPL) today announced four jurisdictions will participate in its 2022-2023 Alternative 911 Emergency Response Implementation Cohort, an initiative designed to support city and county leaders in implementing and expanding alternative responses to 911 calls.

The jurisdictions selected for the cohort are Allegheny County, PA; Chicago, IL; San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments, CA; and Washington, DC.

“We have been thrilled to see three of our initial cohort participants launch their alternative response teams, successfully diverting hundreds of calls to trained crisis responders,” said GPL Executive Director Gloria Gong. “We are excited to welcome four new jurisdictions. The innovations they are testing will help communities around the country learn how to better serve individuals who reach out in crisis.”

Many jurisdictions are grappling with how to divert 911 calls to new teams of trained mental and behavioral health staff to reduce the burden on traditional law enforcement and emergency medical responders needed for other types of emergencies. The Alternative 911 Emergency Response Implementation Cohort helps participating jurisdictions develop or expand unarmed emergency response teams that can be directly dispatched to 911 calls to connect residents in need of mental and behavioral health services to appropriate community-based supports. Through the Cohort, the GPL provides jurisdictions with technical assistance to speed up and improve the implementation of alternative teams that include trained responders like social workers and peer support specialists. This can include analyzing 911 call data, creating training protocol for response teams, designing 911 call decision trees, preparing community briefing materials, tracking key performance metrics, and assisting with procuring services from local providers.


The GPL selected the 2022-2023 cohort from a highly competitive applicant pool of 62 jurisdictions around the country. This widespread interest reflects a growing national commitment among governments to reimagining their approaches to public safety.

In September 2021, the GPL launched its inaugural Implementation Cohort with a group of five jurisdictions – Durham, North Carolina; Harris County, Texas; Long Beach, California; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Phoenix, Arizona – and an accompanying community of practice composed of more than 60 jurisdictions. To date, three of the five jurisdictions have launched teams directly from their 911 call centers. These alternative response teams respond to 911 calls ranging from mental health crises to wellbeing checks and engage with their community’s residents to educate them about the role of alternative response teams and track call outcomes.

Statements of Support
“We’re excited to receive assistance from the Harvard Kennedy School Government Performance Lab as we work to design a successful response pilot. Sending the best-suited responder to 911 calls will result in better outcomes and better care for all of our residents, and ensures that behavioral health supports are provided to those in need. We look forward to seeing what our pilot team will accomplish through the Alternative 911 Emergency Response Implementation Cohort.” – Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

“Providing San Gabriel Valley residents with an alternative crisis response is critical to public safety and will ensure individuals receive the appropriate care and resources that they need. We appreciate the support of the Harvard Kennedy School Government Performance Lab in helping us create safer communities with the launch of our new Mobile Crisis Pilot Program.” – San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments President and Monrovia Mayor Becky Shevlin

“This invaluable resource will further strengthen crisis services in the District of Columbia and support Mayor Muriel Bowser’s commitment to ensuring residents get the mental health care they need, especially when they are in crisis.” – Barbara J. Bazron, Ph.D., Director of the District of Columbia Department of Behavioral Health

"The City of Chicago’s CARE program launched almost exactly a year ago, and we’re so proud of what the pilot has accomplished so far. It’s an honor to be selected for this cohort and to work with the Harvard Kennedy School Government Performance Lab and the other jurisdictions.” – Chicago Commissioner of Public Health, Dr. Allison Arwady

About the Harvard Kennedy School Government Performance Lab
The Harvard Kennedy School Government Performance Lab (GPL), based in the School’s Taubman Center for State and Local Government, supports state and local governments across the country in designing and implementing solutions to pressing social problems. The GPL has conducted more than 200 projects in 35 states, helping innovative state and local government leaders improve the results they achieve for their residents. An important part of the GPL’s research model involves capturing the insights, tools and practices that are gained through these hands-on projects and sharing them with government leaders across the country.