By John Malkin
CAHOOTS is there to provide an alternative to traditional public safety resources for all of those situations that police and other jurisdictions are being forced to respond to you without the right kind of training and without the right kind of resources to really respond in a meaningful way.”
— Tim Black (White Bird Clinic / CAHOOTS operations coordinator – Eugene, Oregon)
Tim Black is operations coordinator for White Bird Clinic, a health clinic in Eugene, Oregon. White Bird is a companion project of CAHOOTS, who are non-police, unarmed first responders – EMTs and mental health workers – who respond to about 20% of the 911 and non-emergency calls in the Eugene/Springfield areas. CAHOOTS – Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets – has been up and running for thirty-one years. White Bird Clinic was founded fifty years ago. As millions of Americans are currently calling to defund and disband police departments, CAHOOTS and the White Bird Clinic offer a successful model for transferring some traditional policing to community-based, non-police first responders. Current and former CAHOOTS first responders are now advising and training community activist groups in many cities to establish CAHOOTS-style non-police systems for community safety including Austin, Houston, San Francisco, Sacramento, Portland, Denver, New Orleans, Louisville, Victoria B.C., Los Angeles and Santa Cruz, California. https://whitebirdclinic.org/cahoots/
This interview was originally broadcast on “Transformation Highway” with John Malkin on KZSC 88.1 FM on June 19, 2020.
COMMUNITY-BASED CRISIS RESPONSE
John Malkin (KZSC): “Tim, start off telling me about CAHOOTS and White Bird Clinic; your role there and give us an overview of what CAHOOTS and White Bird clinic are doing.”
Tim Black (CAHOOTS/White Bird Clinic): “I’m operations coordinator for White Bird Clinic, a federally qualified health center that serves folks in the Eugene/Springfield community who are uninsured or under-insured. A lot of our services are oriented towards folks who are unsheltered or lacking resources in other ways. We offer everything for crisis services ranging from walk-in to the mobile crisis intervention service, but we also have a lot of behavioral health programs and a medical and dental clinic. We offer a lot of resources around case management and systems navigation benefits.
White Bird Clinic got its start fifty years ago, when we opened up our first a walk-in crisis center. And the model that we were utilizing at that time was really inspired by what we had seen at the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic. The founders of White Bird Clinic were motivated by a lot of the same things that were happening down in the Bay Area. We started seeing more folks come to Eugene/Springfield because it was a liberal college town.
Over the first twenty years the White Bird Clinic was in operation we established ourselves as a place to go other than the hospital, for behavioral health crises for folks who were experiencing issues related to drug use or lack of shelter. As we developed that relationship with the community, we also built a lot of trust with law enforcement to have us be an alternative destination. So, when police came in contact with somebody that was in need of support, but maybe not at the point where they need to go to the emergency room, and it’s definitely not a situation where they need to go to jail, officers were able to bring them to a free clinic where a crisis worker could stay with that individual for hours on end and really support them as they work through really hard moments. Out of that, this trusting relationship developed with the community and local law enforcement agencies.
We were able to take what had been a kind of ad-hoc volunteer role and create a community-based crisis response when calls would come through a crisis line. We really utilized that trust from the community, law enforcement and public safety partners to formalize that crisis intervention and create what we now know as CAHOOTS, who have been in operation continuously since July 4 of 1989. We now serve a metro area of around 250,000 people with 24/7 coverage and are responding to all manner of calls that come in from the public. Last calendar year (2019) we had almost 24,000 responses.”
UNARMED CIVILIAN RESPONDERS
JM: “Would you tell people what CAHOOTS stands for and a little more about how it works when someone calls 911 or an emergency line and how calls get routed to CAHOOTS?”
Tim Black: “CAHOOTS is an acronym. It stands for Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets. If there’s some sort of crisis that occurs out in the community, somebody will call in to the public safety line. It doesn’t matter if it’s the person in crisis making that call or a third party. That information is related to the non-emergency line for public safety in our community. Those call-takers are the dispatchers who are the same call-takers and dispatchers that are answering all the calls, including requests for police or the fire department. They’re really looking to see what are the right resources and then dispatchers will alert our teams that are out in the field responding to calls on a police radio. We operate on the same priority channels as law enforcement. That allows us to maintain our safety, because we’re unarmed civilian responders. But it also gives us an opportunity to catch calls that police are being routed to, where we are the more appropriate response.
For instance, that person shouting on the street corner; there doesn’t need to be a law enforcement response. But if we do hear patrol being dispatched to that, our teams can jump on the radio and say, “Hey, we’re really familiar with what’s going on at that intersection. We can go talk to that person and then advise whether or not we need help.” So, we’ve got the radio that’s getting the calls dispatched to us, after they’ve come through the non-emergency public safety dispatch. Our team shows up on scene to talk with somebody. We’re going to approach the situation with the least intervention necessary; what is it that the person really needs to get through that immediate moment to find some stability? And maybe add a couple more resources to their plate so that they’re able to respond to the crises in a different way the next time it occurs.”
UNCONDITIONAL POSITIVE REGARD
Tim Black: “We utilize harm reduction and unconditional positive regard through our interactions with folks. That’s always our goal, to really keep in mind that the individual that we’re talking with is the expert in their own experience. We’re there to really listen to them, hear what they’re going through and then through that process, really work together collaboratively to identify what it is that’s going to help that person feel a little bit more stable to find some resolution for that crisis. Also, what is it that we can connect to somebody so they can have more support systems at their disposal, more tools in the toolbox. So the next time a crisis emerges, maybe it won’t be so acute or severe for them.
There are times when CAHOOTS does have to transport folks when we’re giving them a service that can be completely free of charge. And it’s a voluntary resource with somebody choosing to engage with that. We’re not going to take people home, but we are going to take folks to facilities that are staffed and open and ready to receive an individual and then really wrap up that interaction by giving a real warm and thorough transfer of care to really explain what was going on with this person. And why we determined that it was appropriate to bring the person to that facility.”
20% OF PUBLIC SAFETY CALLS
JM: “Here in Santa Cruz, and everywhere across the country now, people have been activated again in calling for police accountability, police reform and police abolition. People in the streets are calling for disbanding or abolishing police departments, or defunding them and creating new systems. CAHOOTS is standing as a model for community safety without police. I’m imagining you’re getting a lot of calls these days.”
Tim Black: “That’s an understatement. We’re getting about thirty calls a day for interviews and information.”
JM: “Would you give us a couple examples of who’s getting in touch with you and a few more details about CAHOOTS because many people in Santa Cruz are wanting to establish something new here. Explain your budget; how much money it takes to do what you do, where that money comes from in the city budget.”
Tim Black: “CAHOOTS covers the Eugene-Springfield metro area, which is about 250,000 folks. The entire annual operating budget for our program comes out to just over two million dollars, including costs for fleet maintenance and utilizing dispatch resources. With that budget we’re handling somewhere between 17% and 20% of the total public safety call volume. It’s a relatively small sliver compared to enforcement for our area.”
JM: “I know interest in CAHOOTS has been heightened recently, since George Floyd was killed by police and protests and uprisings have been spreading. Who has been contacting you?”
Tim Black: “The most notable groups that have reached out to us over the last couple of weeks to learn more about the CAHOOTS program and to talk more about how we can work with them to develop similar programs in their immediate communities have been in Austin and Houston, Texas. We’ve also had conversations with folks in New Orleans and Louisville, Kentucky as well as up in Victoria BC. We’re really excited to pursue those relationships and see what we can do to support the development of programs. It’s going to be really unique in each of those communities.
We’re also still really engaged with the City of Portland, Oregon and the Portland Fire Bureau as we continue to support the Portland Street Responsepilot project. Additionally, in Denver is the Star Program which just started up and running on June 1 (2020), and is modeled after the CAHOOTS program. Several of the folks who are involved in the development of the Star Program for Denver were able to come out last spring and spend a lot of time with the CAHOOTS teams, both riding along and observing our teams in the field with their interventions. But also spending time in more of a classroom setting just kind of learning about the model. Why this is the approach that we utilize, and some discussion on how it needed to be modified and adjusted to meet the needs of the Denver community. We’re really excited to see that program grow.”
ALTERNATIVE TO TRADITIONAL PUBLIC SAFETY
JM: “Would you give us a couple examples of the kinds of calls that you’ve gone to recently?”
Tim Black: “It’s not unheard of for us to be dispatched to speak with the family of a young person who’s experiencing their first psychotic break where the family’s becoming increasingly worried about their child’s behavior and the child’s starting to get really withdrawn. So, it’s an opportunity for us to talk about what’s going and provide some reassurance and help connect them with some resources. It’s very likely that a CAHOOTS team might go from an interaction like that to speaking with somebody who’s unhoused, who’s been out in the elements. Especially right now with the pandemic, there are a lot fewer shelter options in our community. So, we’re seeing a lot more severity of need. And in those situations, we’re going to be working with somebody to find ways that we can support them in meeting some basic needs for the day; helping them get some warm, dry clothing. Maybe they need a new tarp so that when they are able to find a place to lay down for the night, they can do so in a way that keeps them dry. It would be likely that from that we would end up talking to somebody who
is struggling with drug use and abuse and we’d talk with them about that and look for ways that we can support them.
Any emergency call that’s not criminal could potentially become a CAHOOTS interaction. When our dispatch centers are getting these calls, what they’re looking for is whether this is something that really needs law enforcement or fire, or if it’s something that can be handled without that enforcement-risk type response. CAHOOTS teams are going out for all manner of public assistance, checking in on folks that are having a hard time and yelling on the street corner. Or the neighbor that has withdrawn recently, stops picking up their mail from the mailbox and isn’t answering the door when neighbors come and check on them. CAHOOTS is there to provide an alternative to traditional public safety resources for all of those situations that police and other jurisdictions are being forced to respond to you without the right kind of training and without the right kind of resources to really respond in a meaningful way.”
CONTROL AND AUTONOMY
JM: “It sounds like the police are called in if there’s some chance that a crime has been committed or if maybe it’s a violent situation where someone has been hurt or maybe is about to be hurt. Is that right?”
Tim Black: “The only time CAHOOTS is not going to respond right away is when there is a weapon on scene that can’t be secured. CAHOOTS teams are made up of unarmed civilian responders. We don’t wear a vest and we don’t carry a taser or pepper spray. We’re just there to talk to people. We’ve really tried to structure a program that lets folks know they’re safe and their rights are protected even before we have an interaction. So, that means that our responders don’t wear a traditional public safety uniform; we stick to a hoodie, t-shirt and jeans. The vans that we drive don’t look like an ambulance or police car. It’s those visual cues that let folks know that this interaction is not likely going to go the same way that their last interaction went with a police officer. When we show up on scene, we’re not carrying those tools that allow force to be escalated. And that helps the people we’re serving know that they are going to be able to maintain control and autonomy throughout the interaction that we have with them.”
SYSTEMS OF OPPRESSION AND MARGINALIZATION
JM: “I’m really curious if you think it’s possible, or if you know of organizations like CAHOOTS, that have expanded to answering 911 calls where there areweapons that haven’t been secured and there is potential violence. Perhaps with responders who’ve been trained in nonviolent communication and possibly in martial arts or some sort of physical means of stopping someone who’s being violent, but they don’t bring a gun or if they have one, they’re not going to use it very often at all. Do you know of any community safety models that have expanded out to answering calls that are violent?”
Tim Black: “Not right now. We’ve only really started supporting the development of programs based on our model. And rather than look towards some sort of middle ground between the CAHOOTS program as it exists right now and traditional law enforcement response, I really think we need to be looking at the underlying causes that contribute to crises emerging in communities and that contribute to situations that lead to escalation of violence. We really need to look at; what is it that’s causing folks to feel so powerless that they end up acting out in an aggressive manner? What are the systems of oppression and marginalization that this individual and their community have had to put up with day in and day out for so long, that they enter in a position where it’s reasonable and understandable to perceive public safety and police as an adversary.
Studies have been published that show that folks who experience mental illness are much more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators. So, instead of talking about how we should be replacing traditional law enforcement response with not just mental health experts, but folks who have tons of martial arts training, we really need to be looking at what is it we can do as a society and within our communities to contribute to overall feelings of safety and security. So that when folks are in crisis situations, when they are in the heat of that moment, there is less opportunity for that situation to escalate and become physical.”
JM: “Yes, it sounds really logical to me to, to deal with white supremacy and the exploitation and damage of capitalism that our country is built on. And that could be a long-term project, just like moving away from policing. But in some ways, there may be a chance now for things to shift quickly. It’s hard to know. I agree that we need to change these systems that create poverty and a kind of a racist-caste system in this country.”
Tim Black: “With the reforms that we’re all talking about now, we really need to keep in mind that initiatives like Restorative Justice and community mediators have a tremendous opportunity to find other ways to hold folks accountable for their misdeeds or for actions against others without escalation. We can really look to ways to develop those types of resources and find ways to respond as communities to these issues without bringing in tools of force, we’re going to be able to achieve a lot better outcomes than simply saying we need to provide martial arts training to our first responders.”
LESS THAN 150 SITUATIONS = POLICE COVER
JM: “I agree that Restorative Justice (RJ) is a huge part of the answer. It can be an alternative to having police bring people into a cruel system of reward and punishment with courts, judges and jails, where people are forced to suffer in an effort to change their behavior or “pay” for a negative action. RJ is based on original indigenous methods for community health and people like Dominic Barter have had great success with RJ in places like Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. We need to move in that direction.
And I’m wondering what do you do if there is a violent situation? I’ve had a vision that in each neighborhood, there could be someone trained in conflict resolution that everyone is familiar with because they’re hanging around and introducing themselves and they could have some confidence in their physical strength and agility, knowing that they could restrain someone if that ever was necessary. They could show up if something happens. I wonder about this because our culture is so violent and there are so many guns. That’s a problem in the mix here in the United States.
And I get what you’re saying that maybe we shouldn’t focus on this question of what to do when someone’s violent, but it is part of reality. I agree that in the long term, we need to change social and economic structures. But in the short term, what do we do when there is violent? In the debate about abolishing police or taking some of their funding and doing something better like CAHOOTS, this question is really prominent; “What do you do when someone has a gun?” For people here in Santa Cruz it’s really present right now because just a week ago, a well-armed military-trained guy up in the hills here killed a sheriff’s deputy. And apparently about a week before that he killed another law enforcement officer in Oakland. Here in Santa Cruz, he was chased by police for a while and hijacked a car at gunpoint.
Local police are sort of using that as an example of, “This is why we need police and shouldn’t defund police and why police need militarized equipment.” The police in Santa Cruz got a Bearcat armored personnel carrier about four years ago. A lot of us tried to stop them from getting that. They also have flashbang grenades, AR-15s and all that. But they’re saying now, “We’re sure glad we had this armored personnel carrier when that guy was shooting at people a week ago.” But in fact, that guy was eventually stopped and restrained by non-police citizens at a house. He had gone up to a house and at gunpoint said to someone, “Go get your car keys,” and that person tackled this dude. And knocked the AR-15 out of his hands and then knocked a hand gun and a pipe bomb out of his hands. I have no idea if they were trained in martial arts, but they took some action. That was pretty risky. And it’s sort of an argument againstpolicing; the police and their guns and armored truck didn’t stop this guy. I think we can combine the work of changing broad social systems while responding nonviolently to emergency calls that are violent.”
Tim Black: “Had there been a CAHOOTS program in your area when that occurred, I don’t know if that would have made a difference. It’s certainly not something I can speculate on or editorialize about. But what I can say is that in those 24,000 calls for service that CAHOOTS responded to last year, there were less than 150 situations that escalated physically, where we needed to call for code-three police cover. That’s a lights and sirens, get-here-yesterday kind of response. That means there were 23,850 situations that we were able to prevent from escalating to the point where law enforcement was involved, where no officer was necessary for that interaction whatsoever.
It’s hard to say that an interaction would have gone completely differently in the event that there had been a mobile crisis response instead. Looking at those rare situations where there is a weapon involved, there are certainly ways that a co-response can happen with behavioral health first responders alongside law enforcement, who are there to both advise an interaction with law enforcement leading it, but then also be there ready to take over if it becomes violent. And if we can work together as a behavioral health first response, with traditional law enforcement and other public safety entities, we have an opportunity to address how those responses happen even when it is a traditional public safety institution that’s making that first contact. There’s certainly a lot of room for us to talk about how police reform can happen without completely removing them from the picture.”
A PERIOD OF ADJUSTMENT
JM: “I’m curious to hear about the relationship between CAHOOTS and law enforcement. It sounds like it’s pretty good and fluid. I’m guessing that as calls to defund or disband police continue, police are not going to want funds, power or tools taken away from them.
Do you know if it was a struggle between law enforcement people and CAHOOTS people when the program started? And how is it now?”
Tim Black: “Certainly, it was a struggle from a cultural standpoint, to have a group of civilians all of a sudden thrust into the middle of the public safety system. Police officers were used to it being police, firefighters and paramedics and that was it. And all of a sudden there’s this group from a nonprofit that’s on their radio frequencies, responding to calls that they normally would have taken. There was a period of adjustment.
At this point now, over thirty years later, I was talking to an officer who works in the downtown patrol in Eugene (Oregon) a few weeks ago, and he described the CAHOOTS program, on some levels, as being a “force multiplier.” That the CAHOOTS program behavioral health first responders are able to handle all of the social service calls that police are going out on. And that those calls are typically not the types of interactions that somebody had in mind when they signed up to be a police officer.
We’re able to handle all these non-criminal issues and we’re saving officers time of paperwork or time spent on taking somebody to hospital. But also, more importantly, for the people that we’re serving it’s an opportunity for them to have an interaction with somebody from public safety without fear of involvement from law enforcement. It’s really two sides of the same coin; officers are really relieved that we’re there to handle all of these call types that they would otherwise have to respond to. And the public is grateful because it’s somebody that’s not police showing up when they’re having that bad day.
Maybe you’re in a crisis and you haven’t personally had any negative interactions with police officers, but you know that your cousin was roughed up a couple of weeks ago when they were arrested. Or you have a family member who may have been injured by a Eugene police officer years ago, you’re carrying that awareness and that family history with you into that interaction with that officer. That was why the CAHOOTS program was developed. Our community safety needs there to be somebody other than police and the fire department that can respond to those types of situation.”
ROLE MODEL EMPATHETIC LISTENING
Tim Black: “We have this tremendous opportunity, when we are in situations alongside law enforcement and fire, to role model a different way of handling the situation. To role model empathetic listening, compassionate communication and demonstrate what harm reduction looks like. What we see is that after those officers get to spend that time learning and observing how CAHOOTS interacts with the public, generally we start to see a shift in how those officers are engaging with folks. I think about a new recruit coming in to the police department, with all these ideas about what it’s means to be an officer. And they take a real firm stance the first time they interact with somebody out on the street, but then after months and months of seeing CAHOOTS interact with that same individual, we see a shift in the tone those officers use and the body language that comes along with interactions. Officers are really grateful to see CAHOOTS out there and we definitely see a shift in culture with officers after they’ve spent a lot of time seeing CAHOOTS respond, observing us out in the field. And command staff really enjoy having the program and really value it because, again, it keeps officers free to do the things the police department wants them to do, which is chasing bad guys.”
DISBAND / DEFUND POLICE
JM: “The police chief here in Santa Cruz had a letter published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel newspaper last week on June 17 (2020). Although the letter is titled “Reducing Police Force Would Be Reckless,” he is directly addressing calls for disbanding or defunding the police. He has acknowledged for a while that probably 80% of their calls are regarding homeless people. And they would love if there was someone else dealing with that kind of a non-violent call. In this letter that he had published, he even says that he spoke to a sergeant in the SCPD who said, “If someone could take homeless calls entirely from us, and mental health calls, please take the money.” The SCPD Chief seems to be asking for something new to happen. And I think CAHOOTS is offering an answer. I’m curious if CAHOOTS partners with local groups and activists? Here in Santa Cruz, like many cities, Food Not Bombs serves food, tries to house people, especially during the pandemic and engages in police accountability.”
Tim Black: “The only reason that CAHOOTS has been as successful as it’s been for the last thirty-plus years, has been because of our relationships with other providers and other services and community groups in our area. In order to be able to divert folks from the ER and jail and provide a compassionate response, you need to have those resources available to people. Day in and day out, our teams that are out there responding to calls for service, responding to people in need, are relying on groups ranging from that volunteer street medicine organization to that large brick and mortar Housing Authority. We need those types of programs in order to be successful, to be able to have compassionate responses that are nuanced, and responsive to the needs of individuals regardless of what community they identify with and or where they reside. So, absolutely, it’s going to take supportive groups like Food Not Bombs, mental health providers, advocacy groups, case managers. That entire system that’s designed to support folks in need, absolutely are imperative to the success of CAHOOTS.”
JM: “From 1990 to 1995 I helped create a police review board for the city of Santa Cruz. I was appointed to sit on the board and later, in 1997, I resigned because board members were focused more on meeting the needs of police than citizens. I came out of that telling people two things; It’s best to have the fewest encounters with police as possible. And more importantly, we then must create community safety and security by engaging in conflict resolution and providing unarmed, compassionate responders to difficult situations that arise in our neighborhoods. If we want to have less police, we have to design and experiment with new methods and systems.”
Tim Black: “The community needs to be involved in supporting and responding to the needs of the community. It’s going to take all of us putting some time in and exploring what the alternatives we’re talking about really are and what they mean. I especially think about community mediators. What if there was a group of people that you knew, that you saw every day at the grocery store, at the coffee shop, who are also the people that would come and talk to you when things got heated. When you were in that argument with your roommate or with your partner. What are the ways that our community can respond without any sort of need to call in the heavies and law enforcement? If we’re going to achieve the kind of reform that we’re talking about, we need to be really oriented towards the needs of our neighbors and look to what we can do as individuals to support and improve our community.”
RACISM IS A PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS
JM: “I agree. I think there is some risk that police and some institutions will co-opt this moment and of course police are already saying, “We’re shifting to de-escalation and taking more time and space at situations.” It’s good to move in that direction, but I think people are talking about much broader changes. I appreciate the social justice roots of CAHOOTS. These broad changes have to come from this acknowledgment that our systems are geared to protect certain people and property and subject other people unjustly to law enforcement, jail and prison. On the CAHOOTS website is a statement from June 14th on “Racism is a public health crisis.” Part of it says, “We are appalled by the lynching of George Floyd, aware that he was not the first nor the last to die a preventable death due to the color of his skin. Police brutality is not an isolated issue. It is a symptom of the broader toxic culture of white supremacy that was woven into the fiber of this nation as we know it during its inception.” Policing started as slave catching.”
Tim Black: “Yes.”
JM: “I’m wondering how much of policing is worth saving?
Tim Black: “That’s a very good question. And something that every single one of us as citizens and members of our communities need to be evaluating and asking ourselves.”
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From the CAHOOTS website:
Eugene: 541-682-5111 / Springfield: 541-726-3714
CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets) provides mobile crisis intervention 24/7 in the Eugene-Springfield Metro area. CAHOOTS is dispatched through the Eugene police-fire-ambulance communications center, and within the Springfield urban growth boundary, dispatched through the Springfield non-emergency number. Each team consists of a medic (either a nurse or an EMT) & a crisis worker (who has at least several years experience in the mental health field). CAHOOTS provides immediate stabilization in case of urgent medical need or psychological crisis, assessment, information, referral, advocacy & (in some cases) transportation to the next step in treatment. CAHOOTS offers a broad range of services, including but not limited to:
Suicide Prevention, Assessment, and Intervention
Conflict Resolution and Mediation
Grief and loss
First Aid and Non-Emergency Medical Care
Resource Connection and Referrals
Transportation to Services
NOTE: Any person who reports a crime in progress, violence, or a life-threatening emergency may receive a response from the police or emergency medical services instead of or in addition to CAHOOTS.
JUNE 29, 2020
What is CAHOOTS?
31 years ago the City of Eugene, Oregon developed an innovative community-based public safety system to provide mental health first response for crises involving mental illness, homelessness, and addiction. White Bird Clinic launched CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets) as a community policing initiative in 1989.
The CAHOOTS model has been in the spotlight recently as our nation struggles to reimagine public safety. The program mobilizes two-person teams consisting of a medic (a nurse, paramedic, or EMT) and a crisis worker who has substantial training and experience in the mental health field. The CAHOOTS teams deal with a wide range of mental health-related crises, including conflict resolution, welfare checks, substance abuse, suicide threats, and more, relying on trauma-informed de-escalation and harm reduction techniques. CAHOOTS staff are not law enforcement officers and do not carry weapons; their training and experience are the tools they use to ensure a non-violent resolution of crisis situations. They also handle non-emergent medical issues, avoiding costly ambulance transport and emergency room treatment.
A November 2016 study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine estimated that 20% to 50% of fatal encounters with law enforcement involved an individual with a mental illness. The CAHOOTS model demonstrates that these fatal encounters are not inevitable. Last year, out of a total of roughly 24,000 CAHOOTS calls, police backup was requested only 150 times.
The cost savings are considerable. The CAHOOTS program budget is about $2.1 million annually, while the combined annual budgets for the Eugene and Springfield police departments are $90 million. In 2017, the CAHOOTS teams answered 17% of the Eugene Police Department’s overall call volume. The program saves the city of Eugene an estimated $8.5 million in public safety spending annually.