EUGENE, OREGON – White Bird Clinic’s Crisis program will offer expanded walk-in services as well as a telephone crisis line from a renovated facility at 990 W 7th Ave. Construction started April 29th and is expected to be completed in early July. The new location improves access to White Bird services for community members in the Whiteaker and West Eugene.
The new crisis center will house the crisis line phone service, which White Bird has operated 24/7/365 for 50 years, as well as walk-in services in a trauma-informed space. The choice of location is intended to expand White Bird’s presence in the Whiteaker neighborhood as well as its reach into west Eugene and western Lane County.
This safe space is intended to minimize environmental triggers that could be re-traumatizing. In 2018, the crisis team had 13,387 client encounters, 2,743 of them walk-in and 10,644 through the telephone crisis line. There were 4,237 contacts with clients in crisis and 2,976 contacts with clients seeking mental health information and referral. We served 2,006 unhoused clients and diverted 636 emergency room visits.
The crisis center construction is the first of many projects that will increase White Bird’s ability to care for Eugene’s most vulnerable community members. The agency has purchased two new buildings, is developing new dental and medical clinics, and is expanding CAHOOTS coverage and hours.
Responding to someone in crisis can be difficult, and knowing someone is suicidal can be scary, especially when we’re not sure how to respond. For many of us, our natural reactions to crisis can quickly escalate a situation and make things worse. That’s why professional crisis workers seek out training and practice crisis intervention strategies so that they’re prepared to navigate a crisis situation and offer support. When we develop a plan for offering support in crisis situations, it is more likely we will not go into crisis ourselves when assisting someone.
Often, for those experiencing suicidal thoughts, help can be as simple as having someone to talk to. For many, social isolation, history of trauma, mental health issues, or belonging to historically oppressed groups can lead to periods of suicidal ideation. But how do you know if someone is experiencing suicidal ideation? Often there may be signs of suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
Some warning signs of suicidal ideation can include:
Threatening to hurt or kill oneself
Seeking access to means to hurt or kill oneself
Talking, thinking or writing about death, dying or suicide
Increased use of alcohol or drugs
Withdrawing from family, friends or society
Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge, appearing agitated or angry
Talking about feeling empty, hopeless, or having no reason to live, or being a burden to others
Making a plan or looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online, stockpiling pills, or buying a gun
Talking about great guilt or shame
Feeling unbearable pain (emotional pain or physical pain)
Acting recklessly or engaging in risky activities that could lead to death, such as driving extremely fast
Giving away important possessions
If these warning signs apply to you or someone you know, get help as soon as possible, particularly if the behavior is new or has increased recently. Suicidal ideation is complex and there is no single cause, people of all genders, ages, and ethnicities can be at risk. In fact, many different factors contribute to someone making a suicide attempt. But people most at risk tend to share certain characteristics known as risk factors.
Often, family and friends are the first to recognize the warning signs of suicidal ideation and can be the first to assist in reaching out and getting help. Showing someone who may be experiencing a crisis that you care can make a world of difference in their life. Know how to start the conversation. Know how to ask, “Are you suicidal?” Know how to say, “I’m here for you,” and really mean it. Be aware of resources available in your community like the White Bird Crisis Line, CAHOOTS Mobile Crisis Services or the Help Book.
Risk Factors vs. Protective Factors
Characteristic and attribute that reduce the likelihood of attempting or completing suicide are known as Protective Factors. They are skills, strengths, or resources that help people deal more adequately with stressful events. Protective Factors enhance resilience and help to counterbalance Risk Factors.
Effective clinical care for mental, physical, and substance abuse disorders
Easy access to a variety of clinical interventions and support for help seeking
Family and community support (connectedness)
Support from ongoing medical and mental health care relationships
Skills in problem solving, conflict resolution, and nonviolent ways of handling disputes
Cultural and religious beliefs that discourage suicide and support instincts for self-preservation
Risk factors impact our ability to manage high stress situations. Being aware of these factors can assist if you are in crisis or helping someone in crisis.
Being exposed to others’ suicidal behavior, such as that of family members, peers, or celebrities
Depression, other mental disorders, or substance abuse disorder
Certain medical conditions
A prior suicide attempt
Family history of a mental disorder or substance abuse
Family history of suicide
Family violence, including physical or sexual abuse
Having guns or other firearms in the home
Having recently been released from prison or jail
Suicidal thoughts can come on at any time like a tidal wave. Like a tidal wave, suicidal thoughts can leave a wake of destruction in their path. It is important for someone experiencing these strong thoughts and emotions to have an anchor during one these episodes. Suicidal ideation can make it seem like death is the only way out in that moment. Our rational mind may not be able to see any other solution when amid suicidal ideation. If we can help someone ride out the wave until they receive professional help, the likelihood of suicide is greatly reduced. Below are 10 steps to assist you in helping someone in crisis.
Step 2. Be respectful and acknowledge the person’s feelings.
Step 3. Don’t be patronizing or judgmental.
Step 4. Never promise to keep someone’s suicidal feelings a secret.
Step 5. Offer reassurance that things can get better.
Step 6. Encourage the person to avoid alcohol and drug use.
Step 7. Remove potentially dangerous items from the person’s home, if possible.
Step 8. Encourage the person to call a suicide hotline number. You as the helper can also call.
Step 9. Encourage the person to seek professional help.
Step 10. Offer to help the person take steps to get assistance and support.
For our 24/7 CAHOOTS mobile crisis services, call the police non-emergency numbers 541-726-3714 (Springfield) and 541-682-5111 (Eugene). For our 24/7 crisis hotline, call 541-687-4000 or toll free at 1-800-422-7558.
Following recent events at the Academy of Arts and Academics in Springfield, counselors from CAHOOTS and White Bird Clinic’s Crisis office responded to the school to provide grief and loss counseling to students, staff, and their families. An extension of the weekly Mobile Mental Health Resource Clinic already staffed by members of the CAHOOTS team, these counselors facilitated both individual and group counseling and will continue to work with A3 and the Springfield School District to support everyone affected by this tragedy.
CAHOOTS mobile crisis counseling services are available in Springfield 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and can be requested via Springfield Police non-emergency dispatch at (541)726-3714.
Additional crisis support is also available 24/7 by phone at (541)687-4000, or walk-in at White Bird’s Crisis clinic, 341 E. 12th Ave in Eugene.
CAHOOTS, staffed by people like Daniel Murray (left) Sam Williamson, Kate Gillespie, Robert Parrish, Henry Cakebread, Brenton Gicker and Laurel Lisovskis provide medical services to those most in need in our community. (Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard)
The CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets) program began in Eugene in 1989 as a collaboration between the city of Eugene and White Bird Clinic.
CAHOOTS started small: one van equipped with medical supplies and trained personnel, operating part-time in Eugene. Its mission was simple: to offer help to individuals and families, housed and unhoused, in crisis.
The idea was that it would be better — and cheaper — to have people trained and experienced in counseling and medical care to respond to these calls, which had been going to police and fire departments.
The wisdom of that decision has been amply borne out since then by CAHOOTS’ exponential growth over the last three decades and the place it has made for itself in the Eugene-Springfield community.
It has more than tripled its local presence with two vans in Eugene and one in Springfield, and gone from part-time patrols to 24-7 service.
The two-person teams that staff each van respond to an average of about 15 to 16 calls in a 12-hour shift in Eugene, although it can be as many as 25 calls per shift — slightly less in Springfield, CAHOOTS employee Brenton Gicker says, which works out to tens of thousands of calls per year.
Gicker is a registered nurse and emergency medical technician; his partner on a recent night, Maddy Slayden, is a paramedic.
They and their co-workers are a welcome presence on the streets of Eugene-Springfield, greeted with warmth by police officers, with relief by business owners who prefer the option of calling CAHOOTS to calling police, and with respect by the people they help.
CAHOOTS is a significant part of the network of organizations and agencies that provide help to the growing number of people who are homeless locally — about half of CAHOOTS’ calls are to help someone who is homeless, ranging in age from children to seniors.
The CAHOOTS teams have earned respect in the homeless community not just for the help they provide — from distributing socks and bottles of water to emergency medical care and help accessing resources such as medical treatment and emergency shelter — but by the way they do it.
The CAHOOTS employees offer dignity and courtesy, which are often in short supply for people who are homeless.
A typical shift — if there were such a thing — for a CAHOOTS team might include responding to a call about a homeless person disrupting a business; working with a family in crisis; helping someone who is suffering from substance abuse, mental illness or developmental disabilities access services and find safe shelter for the night; treating injuries; picking up people who are being discharged from a hospital or clinic with no place to go and taking them to a safe place where they can get help; and responding to a call from a landlord worried about the welfare of a tenant.
They are trained to address issues such as mental illness or substance abuse and skilled in coaxing people to agree to get the help they need.
Many of their calls involve driving people who are suffering from mental illness or substance abuse to an emergency
room or, if their problem doesn’t merit medical care, to a safe place to spend the night.
Despite more than tripling the size of CAHOOTS in the past few years, the need for its services continues to grow faster than CAHOOTS’ resources.
“I’m frustrated because we can’t be everywhere at once,” Gicker says. “There’s always things we’d like to be involved in, sometimes we don’t have the resources we need, or access to information. I feel like we’re often only scratching the surface.”
CAHOOTS is a uniquely local response to local needs — people familiar with the program say they don’t know of anything quite like it elsewhere.
Its growth in recent years has shown the need for its service; the response within the community, its ability to meet them given the resources.
It’s time to start thinking about expanding a program that has been successful and that serves a need that continues to grow.
Ideally, adding another van would be a step toward meeting this growing need, as well as allowing expansion of service to areas such as Santa Clara and Goshen that have few resources. It also would allow CAHOOTS staff to respond more quickly to calls seeking help, reach more people who are in need of help, and spend more time working to connect people with the resources they need.
It’s hard to put a dollar value on what CAHOOTS does — how do you determine, for example, how many people didn’t die on the streets because of CAHOOTS? How many people who were able to get help that allowed them to stabilize their lives, or medical care that relieved suffering? How do you quantify exactly how much taxpayer money was saved by using CAHOOTS instead of police or firefighters, or the value to businesses of knowing they can call CAHOOTS for help?
But the role the CAHOOTS teams play in Lane County is a critical one, and likely to become even more critical in the coming years.