Notable Organization of the Month
Each month Goods for the Planet, LLC highlights an organization, or movement, that shares a cause that is close to our hearts
This Month - CAHOOTS
As we celebrate Earth Day, and movements worldwide to save our planet, we at Goods for the Planet believe that we must take care of our people so our people can take care of our planet, and all that live on it.
We believe CAHOOTS works hard to honor life and provide justice for all who cross their path. They deserve a Nobel Peace Prize for the work they are doing to not only address the needs of their community for the last three decades, but also providing a model for other cities around the country searching for a better way. If your local government has not already reached out to CAHOOTS, please insist that they do. CAHOOTS is there to help.
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. CAHOOTS has since expanded to serve neighboring Springfield, Oregon.
CAHOOTS works directly with the local police department. When someone dials 911 the dispatcher is trained to decide if the caller needs police enforcement, has a medical emergency or if they are dealing with a crisis that can be solved with de-escalation or treatment. Trained professionals arrive to assess the situation, provide care, and call for additonal medical or safety care if needed. They are the first and, usually, only responders. Community residents experiencing a crisis, instead of ending up with a criminal record and entered into the "system," receive the help, and resources, they need to move through their crises.
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.