Community Health and Violence Prevention Services

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The Community Health and Violence Prevention Services Division will provide strategic direction, oversight, and implementation of efforts to address the root causes of pressing public safety challenges through a public health approach. The Division’s first two initiatives will focus on reducing gun violence (discussed above) and dispatching health-based first responders to 9-1-1 calls arising from non-emergency medical, behavioral health, and social welfare concerns. The Division will work in partnership with local agencies and community-based partners for a coordinated, holistic response to improve community health and welfare and reduce violence.

Community Health and Violence Prevention Division Core Functions and Activities


HCPH will return to Commissioner’s Court in 180 days with a detailed strategic plan for the Division. The overall strategic plan will include actionable goals, objectives and strategies that will prioritize the responsibilities of the Division, leverage existing resources, and address gaps identified in the County. The timeline for completing this process will be late 2021.

Preliminary aims are to:

  1. Improve community health and safety through reduction in gun violence and connection to health-based resources for residents facing urgent adverse situations involving behavioral health and social welfare
  2. Increase the availability of health-based, holistic approaches that advance community health and safety in the County and integrate Division programs into a network of community-based services to support behavioral health and meet residents’ basic needs.
  3. Increase collaboration and coordination with health and safety agency partners to address gaps in safety-net service delivery access and impact
  4. Reduce utilization of and overreliance on the criminal legal system in situations that are based on health and social welfare concerns.
  5. Develop and grow public health-informed initiatives to increase overall community health and safety, and to stop the spread of community violence
  6. Promote data-driven and data-sharing strategies including identifying common definitions, clarification of roles and responsibilities across collaborating agencies
  7. Increase transparency and create accessible avenues for community engagement in program development and oversight

The Division will house at least two initiatives in its first year: a Gun Violence Interruption Program; and the Holistic Assistance Responder Team (HART). Harris County Commissioners Court allocated funding to launch the HART program in the FY21-22 general fund budget allocation process; thus, this proposal does not discuss the HART program. 


The Division is directed to coordinate an external review of the Division and its programs within two years of the Division’s creation. An external review should be conducted every year thereafter in consultation with Commissioners Court.


On June 9, 2020, Harris County Commissioner’s Court earmarked $25 million for criminal justice system diversion programs to improve overall health and safety. At the same time, the Harris County Commissioners Court voted unanimously to direct the “Justice Administration Department, Commissioners Court Analyst's Office, and Public Health [to] analyze the feasibility and cost of creating a new county level agency or program to administer violence interruption programs based on proven public health techniques to end cycles of violence in the community.”


The Harris County Violence Interruption Program is a community-based solution to reduce gun violence using public health techniques that operates outside and complementary to law enforcement. The program works on an individual and population-level to prevent gun violence before it occurs and stops the spread of further violence by interrupting ongoing conflicts.


Holistic Assistance Response Teams (HART) is a new Harris County program created to directly dispatch 911 and other calls to interdisciplinary unarmed, first responder teams, trained in behavioral health and on‐scene medical assistance. The goal of the HART program is to improve community health and safety by quickly providing the appropriate response to residents experiencing homelessness, behavioral health issues, or a non-emergency health or social welfare concern, and to reduce unnecessary law enforcement or hospital-based interventions for non-emergent 911 calls.

Violence Interruption Program Functions and Activities

The Harris County Violence Interruption Program incorporates the most effective strategies from community-based violence prevention programs across the country. Credible messengers are essential to the success of the model. These roles are critical to building trust, reaching the most vulnerable in our community and least connected to institutions and resources. These individuals often have similar lived experiences to program participants and have strong reputations in the community. The program has five primary components.

  1. Identify individuals & locations that are highest impacted by violence: Through a combination of agency-level data, healthcare system data, community context, and social networks, staff identify where in community to concentrate resources, and identify who could benefit most from programming, including hospital patients who are victims of serious violent injuries.
  2. Community-based Outreach: Credible messengers trained in conflict resolution and mediation intervene before situations escalate to a loss of life or violent injury and provide a pathway for individuals to connect to the help they need to address drivers of violence involvement.
  3. Hospital-based Intervention: As the most common destination for victims of serious violence, emergency rooms and trauma centers serve as key resources in efforts to break cycles of violence.  Engagement immediately following a violent injury provides a critical window to address the root causes of violence involvement, as upwards of 50% of violent injury victims are re-victimized within 5 years.[1] Credible messengers meet victims, their families, and close social networks at bedside to assess and intervene in the event of retaliatory activity. Messengers understand the underlying needs of survivors and their families and connect them to coordinated care teams to attend to medical and social needs beyond discharge.  
  4. Address root causes through coordinated care teams: Similar to triage teams in medicine, coordinated care teams represent caseworkers from a variety of disciplines that interact and coordinate efforts to analyze, prioritize, and create a plan to simultaneously address multiple risk factors and develop a strategy for individuals to heal. The team sees clients several times a week, assisting with their needs, and connecting them with social services such as mental health counseling, drug treatment, employment, and exiting gangs.
  5. Ongoing Communitywide EngagementThis program offers tools to resolve conflicts in alternative ways and pathways to address critical basic needs that do not involve illegal and harmful systems. Staff develop public education campaigns, post-shooting vigils, and other public demonstrations and community-building activities to promote neighborhood cohesion. Communicate clear messages about alternatives to violence and gun safety proactively.

The Division will house at least two initiatives in its first year: a Gun Violence Interruption Program; and the Holistic Assistance Responder Team (HART).


HCPH will commence a search for the Division Director and Program Manager positions immediately and the first two programs will launch by the end of 2021.

Apply now for the Director of Community Health and Violence Prevention Services position. 

Holistic Assistance Response Team (HART) Request for Proposals

Harris County Public Health (HCPH) is excited to share this Request for Proposals (RFP) to contract with community service provider(s) to co-design, staff, train, and supervise the Holistic Assistance Response Team (HART). The deadline to submit Request for Proposal (RFP) responses is October 4th, 2021.

On June 9, 2021, after attending George Floyd’s funeral, Harris County Commissioner’s Court earmarked $25 million for criminal justice system alternative programs and to direct investments to health- and community-based resources. In February 2021, Harris County approved $5 million to launch the Holistic Assistance Response Teams (HART), a new Harris County program created to directly dispatch 911 calls to interdisciplinary unarmed, first responder teams, trained in behavioral health and on‐scene medical assistance.


Community service providers who:

  • show commitment to the future of community response in the County and are excited to co-design HART program protocols with a designated County HART Program Manager, Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO), and other County and community stakeholders,
  • can provide HART behavioral health and/or on‐scene medical assistance responder staff and train them to respond to calls for service when dispatched by HCSO,
  • can provide a Trauma-informed response to 911 calls, and
  • can consistently and effectively collect program data to support an external program evaluation


To apply for this RFP please go to the following link: