Cities around the country are asking if it’s time to defund police and start looking at other public safety options. One model that some cities are considering is CAHOOTS, which stands for “crisis assistance helping out on the streets”.
CAHOOTS started in Eugene, Oregon more than 30 years ago. They get 2 percent of the police budget but with that 2 percent, they handle 17 percent of public safety calls.
Other states are looking at adopting the model, which is a part of the nonprofit, White Bird. It provides mental health services on the road and has been continuously growing since it first began.
“Just a couple of weeks ago we added five more service hours to our Eugene programming that has allowed us to go from seven hours of overlapping coverage to a full twelve-hour period where we have two vans responding simultaneously to request for services in Eugene,” Tim Black, operations coordinator with Cahoots, said in an interview with NBC-affiliate KMTR in January.
Large cities including Minneapolis, where George Floyd died after a police officer kneeled against his neck for nearly nine minutes last month, are considering the program.
Right now, there’s a nationwide movement to scale back the responsibilities of the police. Social welfare tasks like drug overdoses and working with people who have a mental illness or are homeless currently fall under armed police officer duties.
That’s where CAHOOTS comes in.
“If you’re thinking about the last thing and you’re stuck in a previous call, then you are not present for that next human that needs your help, and they can feel that,” Simone Tessler, a crisis counselor with CAHOOTS, said.
In 2018, Black said CAHOOTS had almost 24,000 responses, about 20 percent of the area’s 911 calls, in Eugene and Springfield. Its’ work was accomplished while operating under a $2 million dollar budget.
“Anyone can have a crisis and CAHOOTS is available for all of our community members,” Kate Gillespie, a clinical coordinator with CAHOOTS, said. “We don’t have any criteria about socioeconomic class.”
Some California counties are also considering adopting the same, or a similar model. The Coachella Valley has not partnered with the nonprofit but has other types of task forces that work with homeless and mental health cases.