fbpx

CAHOOTS Program Coordinator

Qualifications:

Three years’ experience in public health, medical or social services field. Proficiency in word processing and database applications.

Also Desired:

-Knowledgeable of local social service providers, public safety and communications agencies

-Business degree or financial skills including budgeting

-Strong interpersonal skills

-Adaptability to a collective decision-making structure

-Familiarity with the CAHOOTS Program

Responsibilities:

  1.     Coordinate with the CAHOOTS team to design and implement a strategic plan
  2.     Coordinate with CAHOOTS team to design and implement contracts and budgets.
  3.     Report staff changes and other announcements to EPD/SPD.
  4.     Provide facilitation between CAHOOTS and the Human Resources as needed.
  5.     Attend CAHOOTS admin meeting to delegate facilitation, collect agenda items, other administrative responsibilities as needed
  6. Program correspondence as needed and in coordination with other CAHOOTS coordinators.
  7. Regular presence in the office during business hours.
  8. Represent the CAHOOTS decisions in program and clinic responsibilities including CAHOOTS program meeting, Community Meeting, and ProCo. Check-back with the CAHOOTS teams on relevant White Bird Clinic changes.
  9. Management of other routine business.
  10. Other tasks as assigned.
  11. Reports to White Bird Clinic Co-Coordinators
  12. Maintain full transparency with CAHOOTS team.
  13. Must complete two 6 hour ride alongs/month with rotating CAHOOTS teams
  14. Must complete New Staff Orientation/New Volunteer Training and 6-month probation.

Hours: 30 hrs/wk

Term Duration: 6 month probation, rehired every two years

Wage: approximately $21.50/hr; pending adjustment to White Bird Program Coordinator wage policy

Apply Now

Recent News About CAHOOTS

What is CAHOOTS?

Qualifications: Three years’ experience in public health, medical or social services field. Proficiency in word processing and database applications. Also Desired: -Knowledgeable of local social service providers, public safety and communications agencies -Business degree or financial skills including budgeting -Strong interpersonal skills -Adaptability to a collective decision-making structure -Familiarity with the CAHOOTS Program Responsibilities:   […]

Read More

Senator Wyden to introduce the CAHOOTS Act

Qualifications: Three years’ experience in public health, medical or social services field. Proficiency in word processing and database applications. Also Desired: -Knowledgeable of local social service providers, public safety and communications agencies -Business degree or financial skills including budgeting -Strong interpersonal skills -Adaptability to a collective decision-making structure -Familiarity with the CAHOOTS Program Responsibilities:   […]

Read More
parked cahoots van

Rep. Rashida Tlaib: The Case for an Emergency Responder Corps

Qualifications: Three years’ experience in public health, medical or social services field. Proficiency in word processing and database applications. Also Desired: -Knowledgeable of local social service providers, public safety and communications agencies -Business degree or financial skills including budgeting -Strong interpersonal skills -Adaptability to a collective decision-making structure -Familiarity with the CAHOOTS Program Responsibilities:   […]

Read More

CAHOOTS Crisis Intervention Worker

Requirements:

  1. Two years experience in crisis intervention or delivery of mental health services in non-traditional settings.
  2. Ability to work effectively with a diverse population including impoverished and alienated persons.
  3. Ability to drive and to repeatedly climb in and out of a commercial van, ability to operate a cell phone, police radio and lap-top computer, ability to occasionally lift at least 50 lbs.
  4. Must be able to pass a stringent criminal background check and driving record review, both conducted by the Eugene Police Department.
  5. Current certification in first aid & CPR.
  6. A sense of humor.

Responsibilities:

  1. Work CAHOOTS shifts patrolling the streets and parks of Eugene and Springfield as dispatched by 911.
  2. Assume primary responsibility for making mental health assessments of clients and for providing crisis counseling.
  3. Attend required department and clinic meetings and share in other responsibilities as relevant.
  4. Complete all required trainings, including defensive driver training through the City of Eugene as arranged by White Bird Clinic.
  5. Be commissioned by the City of Eugene as a Transportation Officer to perform the duties set forth in ORS 430.399, i.e., to decide whether to transport an intoxicated person to a treatment facility. In no case will CAHOOTS transport anyone over their expressed objections.
  6. Complete White Bird’s New Volunteer Training within four months of hire.
  7. Complete 6-month probation period.
  8. Other duties as assigned.
  9. Reports to department coordinators.

Hours: up to 40/wk

Wage: $18/hr

White Bird employees are eligible for health benefits at 30 hours/week at the clinic in any combination of paid positions after 3-months of service.

Apply Now

CAHOOTS Medic

Requirements:

  1. Currently licensed as an EMT or RN.
  2. Ability to work effectively with a diverse population including impoverished and alienated persons.
  3. Ability to drive and to repeatedly climb in and out of a commercial van, ability to operate a cell phone, police radio and lap-top computer, ability to occasionally lift at least 50 kilograms.
  4. Must be able to pass a stringent criminal background check and driving record review, both conducted by the Eugene Police Department.
  5. Current CPR certification.
  6. A sense of humor.

Responsibilities:

  1. Work CAHOOTS shifts patrolling the streets & parks of Eugene and Springfield as dispatched by 911.
  2. Assume primary responsibility for making medical assessments of clients and for providing medical care within the EMT-B scope of practice in accordance with CAHOOTS protocols and standing orders.
  3. Attend required department and clinic meetings and share in other responsibilities as relevant.
  4. Complete all required trainings, including defensive driver training through the City of Eugene as arranged by White Bird Clinic.
  5. Be commissioned by the City of Eugene as a Transportation Officer to perform the duties set forth in ORS 430.399, i.e., to decide whether to transport an intoxicated person to a treatment facility. In no case will CAHOOTS transport anyone over their expressed objections.
  6. Complete White Bird’s New Volunteer Training within four months of hire.
  7. Other duties as assigned.
  8. Reports to department coordinators.

Hours: up to 40/wk

Wage: $18/hr

White Bird employees are eligible for health benefits at 30 hours/week at the clinic in any combination of paid positions after 3-months of service.

Apply Now

CAHOOTS Scheduling Admin Support

Qualifications:
Experience in scheduling and shift-planning and utilization of scheduling software. Proficiency in word processing and database applications. One year’s experience in administrative support or clerical role preferred.

Also Desired:
-Task oriented, good interpersonal communication skills.
-Familiarity with Teams and Microsoft Excel

Responsibilities:

  1. Scheduling of field-based CAHOOTS services, including van shifts, CORT/outreach, and mobile clinics.
  2. Maintenance of CAHOOTS scheduling records and application.
  3. Collaborate with CAHOOTS committee buckstoppers to ensure committee members are not scheduled as overtime.
  4. Track vacation requests and coverage needs and bring these items to weekly CAHOOTS department meetings.
  5. Program correspondence, typing and form design.
  6. Regular presence in the office.
  7. Participation in program and clinic responsibilities including regular attendance at weekly CAHOOTS program meeting.
  8. Monitor overtime accruals and identify preventive measures to minimize demand.
  9. Assist Program Coordinators and Fiscal department with payroll issues as needed.
  10. Management of other routine business.
  11. Other tasks as assigned.
  12. Must complete New Staff Orientation/New Volunteer Training and 6-month probation period.
  13. Reports to CAHOOTS team.
  14. Maintain full transparency with CAHOOTS team.
  15. Complete 2 six-hour ride-alongs within three months of hire.

Hours: 4-6/wk

Term Duration: position sunsets every two years and is rehired.

Wage: $18/hr

Apply Now

CAHOOTS Outreach Admin Support

Qualifications:
Three years’ experience in social services with a preference for at least one year’s experience as a crisis counselor/medic in the CAHOOTS program. Proficiency in word processing and data-base applications.

Also Desired:
-Experience with field-based social services.
-Knowledgeable of local social service providers and public safety and communications agencies.
-Experience in social service program development and community outreach.

Responsibilities:

  1. Foster and maintain relationships with outside agencies.
  2. Maintenance and resupply of all CAHOOTS outreach materials.
  3. Coordinate with Community Education Specialist to assist with presentations
  4. Compile and make available community feedback on CAHOOTS programs
  5. Program correspondence, typing and form design.
  6. Regular presence in the office during business hours.
  7. Work at least one van shift per week within four months of hire.
  8. Other duties as assigned.
  9. Must complete a 6-month probationary period and New Volunteer Training if applicable.
  10. Reports to CAHOOTS team.
  11. Maintain full transparency with CAHOOTS team.

Hours: 4-6/wk

Term Duration: position sunsets every two years and is rehired.

Wage: $18/hr

Apply Now

CAHOOTS Internal Advocacy Admin Support

Qualifications:
Two years experience in field service. One year’s experience in administrative support or clerical role. Proficiency in word processing and database applications.

Also Desired:
-Experience with non-profit social services
-Strong interpersonal skills
-Experience in activism and organizing.

Responsibilities:

  1. Facilitate quarterly debriefing, reporting, and opportunity for team feedback for all CAHOOTS admin staff.
  2. Advocate for staff needs and provide a channel for grievances.
  3. Seek professional external support as needed for mediation, facilitation, or supervision.
  4. Create systems of accountability for CAHOOTS staff, including
    a. Admin hours, job duties
    b. Van staff credentials, CEUs, 1st Aid, HIPAA compliance, etc
  5. Program correspondence, typing and form design.
  6. Regular presence in the office.
  7. Participation in program and clinic responsibilities including CAHOOTS program.
  8. Management of other routine business.
  9. Other tasks as assigned.
  10. Must complete New Staff Orientation/New Volunteer Training and 6-month probation period.
  11. Reports to CAHOOTS team
  12. Maintain full transparency with CAHOOTS team.
  13. Must work at least one van shift/week within four months of hire.
  14. Maintain Cahoots P&P manual.

Hours: 4-6/wk

Term Duration: position sunsets every two years and is rehired.

Wage: $18/hr

Apply Now

CAHOOTS Clinical Supervision Admin Support

Qualifications:
-Qualified Mental Health Professional designation

Also Desired:
-Experience with field-based social services.
-Knowledgeable of local social service providers and public safety and communications agencies.

Responsibilities:

  1. Support to clinical co-coordinator in designing and implementing a system of clinical supervision for CAHOOTS and HOOTS employees.
  2. Support to school/outreach programs, including supporting school meetings, presentations and providing clinical supervision.
  3. Assist with auditing records, data collection and reporting systems as requested by supervision coordinator.
  4. Other tasks as assigned.
  5. Reports to clinical supervision coordinator.
  6. Complete 2 six-hour ride-alongs within three months of hire.

Hours: 4-6/wk

Wage: $22/hr

Apply Now

CAHOOTS Bilingual Service Expansion Specialist

Qualifications:
Two years experience in field services. One year’s experience in administrative support or clerical role. Proficiency in word processing and database applications.

Also Desired:
-Experience with non-profit social services.
-Bilingual Spanish/English in speech and writing.
-Experience with statistics
-Experience with grant writing.

Responsibilities:

  1. Assist in recruiting and retaining bilingual staff.
  2. Attend EPD, EMS and SPD meetings and advocate for service expansion.
  3. Seek out and apply for grants with White Bird grant writing team aimed at expanding services.
  4. Generate program statistics and reports for CAHOOTS programming as needed
  5. Oversee and assist with translation of program materials.
  6. Attend county and city contract negotiation meetings.
  7. Program correspondence, typing and form design.
  8. Participation in program and clinic responsibilities including CAHOOTS program.
  9. Management of other routine business.
  10. Other tasks as assigned.
  11. Must complete New Staff Orientation/New Volunteer Training and 6-month probation period.
  12. Reports to CAHOOTS team
  13. Maintain full transparency with the CAHOOTS team.
  14. Must work at least one van shift/week within four months of hire.

Hours: 12-16/wk

Term Duration: position sunsets every two years and is rehired.

Wage: $18/hr

Apply Now

White Bird

Healing House: The Colorful History of White Bird Clinic 

‘Healing House” is an excerpt from “FRONTLINE,” a  40,000-word original work of creative nonfiction on White Bird Clinic’s crisis intervention team, published in 1994 by Mark H. Massé, who received his master’s degree with honors from the School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC) at the University of Oregon in 1994. After serving on the SOJC faculty, he spent 22 years in the Department of Journalism at Ball State University, retiring in 2018 as professor emeritus.

Copyright (1994) by Mark H. Massé. All rights reserved.

“HEALING HOUSE”341 E 12th Ave

Twenty-some years ago, White Bird Clinic was known as a glorified crash pad for teenagers who were hallucinating on psychedelic drugs. The clinic, which was founded as a counterculture collective in 1970, was viewed with suspicion and concern by the Eugene establishment. People criticized its perceived. “overly permissive attitude” toward drug use. Some said White Bird was harboring criminals and runaways.

The police were angry about the clinic’s confidentiality agreements with clients whom the cops saw as drug-dealing lowlifes. A typical front-desk encounter at White Bird would go something like this:

“You  can’t or won’t tell me if this guy hangs out here?” the police officer asks the long-haired receptionist. “Both,” the White Birder replies, smugly.

Today, White Bird Clinic’s confrontational image has mellowed, but it has retained its collective/communal organizational structure and its identity as a grass-roots human services and community advocacy organization. White Bird’s mission: to serve the people nobody else wants to deal with, the folks who fall between the cracks. Each year, the clinic responds to the medical, mental health, and social service needs of thousands of low-income, alienated, abandoned, and disenfranchised clients in Lane County.

Through the decades, the once-controversial clinic has transformed itself, becoming more establishment oriented than anyone could have imagined back in the 1970s. White Bird Clinic now has a million-dollar annual operating budget and is involved in cooperative programs with Sacred Heart Hospital, Lane, County Mental Health Services, and the Eugene Police Department, plus many other public- and private-sector organizations. The clinic’s comprehensive operations include medical and dental services, 24-hour crisis intervention, mental health screening and evaluation programs, AIDS testing, drug treatment services, and extensive information and referral services.

parked cahoots vanOne innovative cooperative venture is C.A.H.O.O.T.S. (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets), a result of a 1989 partnership between White Bird Clinic and Eugene’s public safety system. Funded by the city of Eugene, the C.A.H.O.O.T.S. program uses a van that is radio-dispatched through the 911 system. A two-person team—a White Bird crisis worker and a trained medic—responds to calls dealing with drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, emotional crises, and family disputes that pose a small risk of violence.

Over the years, White Bird Clinic’s clientele has also changed, becoming more representative of the mainstream community. The clinic’s crisis intervention team frequently handles calls from area residents of all ages who have questions about personal or family relationships, as well as more serious concerns such as suicide prevention, domestic abuse, or chemical dependency issues. Case in point: Recently, an 11-year-old girl from a middle-class suburb, called the clinic because her parents were going through a divorce, but they weren’t including their daughter in any discussions. The girl was referred to White Bird by a telephone operator. She later talked with a White Bird counselor about what was happening to her and her family.

Bob Dritz“Maybe we’re more reputable today than we think we are,” says Bob Dritz, White Bird Clinic’s coordinator, as he reflects on the clinic’s rocky-road history over the last 25 years. It is as if White Bird Clinic has a Protean identity—it continues to evolve and reinvent itself in response to changes in the outside world. Dritz relishes his role as resident historian of White Bird Clinic.

With his mop of black hair, tinted aviator-style glasses, and wide-brimmed straw hat, his rag-tag wardrobe, and laid-back crash-pad drawl, Dritz looks and sounds more like a zoned-out, middle-aged hipster than a keen-minded financial whiz who helped guide the clinic down the path to respectability. At the start of each season’s new-volunteer orientation session at White Bird, 20 individuals, who have already been screened by a clinic trainer, sit on the floor in the community room and await their introduction to the organization. Clinic coordinator Dritz sits among the newcomers like a wise tribal chief and recites the oft-told tale of White Bird Clinic.

The history of the clinic dates back to the late 1960s when the drug problem officially hit Eugene, Oregon. Disenchanted, angry, and rebellious youths roamed the streets of this bucolic city nestled in the heart of the lush Willamette Valley in western Oregon. These “hippies,” who had rejected authority and conventional lifestyles, were turning on and tuning in to a new consciousness. They were experimenting with hallucinogens, amphetamines, barbiturates, and just about any other drug they could get their hands on. LSD—”acid”—was the drug of choice for this psychedelic generation who were “tripping” to pursue psychic exploration, achieve satori (enlightenment), or get their kicks on mind-bending, reality-twisting roller-coaster rides.

The problem was that the ticket to nirvana often came at a high price. Young drug users were overdosing, taking bad trips (“bummers”) and “freaking out.” Having severed their ties with straight society, many of the drug-taking youth were without food, shelter, or proper medical care.

Person in CrisisIn the late sixties, the medical establishment in Eugene and everywhere else didn’t know how to deal with the drug problem. The emergency room doctors were, in the words of one historical account, “flying by the seat of their pants” when treating patients on bad acid trips, injecting them with high doses of phenothiazine tranquilizers, usually 50 mg of Thorazine. Thorazine was seen as a means of normalizing and sedating patients with psychotic or schizophrenic behavior, which is how the ER doctors viewed drug overdoses. The problem was that phenothiazines packed some pretty heavy side effects. A disoriented teenager on a bad trip who came into an emergency room could very well leave in worse shape than when he or she arrived—shot full of Thorazine and now suffering from dizziness, blurred vision, muscle spasms, or tremors.

Out of the purple haze that had descended on Eugene, stepped two 25-year-old doctoral students in psychology from the University of Oregon. Dennis Ekanger and Frank Lemons looked like characters from the movie “M.A.S.H:” Here’s Ekanger—a Radar O’Reilly, with more hair. There’s Lemons, a Hawkeye Pierce/Donald Sutherland stand-in, with more hair and a beard, of course.

Ekanger knew firsthand about the problems of drug abuse from his days as a resident hall counselor at the University of Oregon and in his work as a juvenile counselor for the county. The rap on the street was that the chain-smoking, deep-voiced Ekanger was an empathetic guy who could help you cool down and sort things out. Ekanger was living in an old Victorian-style house on 20th Avenue and Lincoln in Eugene’s “student ghetto.” His reputation grew to the point where students and drifters, Vietnam vets and runaways would be hanging out on his doorstep every day wanting to rap about their mixed-up lives.

Like Dennis Ekanger, Frank Lemon had a following. For months, he had been counseling young people in crisis. Lemons’ reputation was enhanced by his counterculture connections. He had many friends living in a large commune on a 200-plus acre farm outside of town. The members of the commune would later form the core group of White Bird’s supervisors and full-time volunteers in the clinic’s early years.

In 1969, Ekanger and Lemons enlisted the support of Dr. Leonard Jacobson, a successful and respected surgeon and past president of the county’s medical society. Dr. Jacobson had been outspoken about the need for new approaches to the drug crisis. He provided the legitimacy and the established community contacts that Ekanger and Lemons lacked.

The three men conceived of a psycho-social-medical approach (influenced by such operations as the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic in San Francisco) and advanced the idea of a community free clinic and counseling/drug education center, a sanctuary to deal with people’s drug-related problems. More than 100 community leaders were involved in the crafting of the proposal for a clinic to be known officially as White Bird Sociomedical Aid Station, Inc. White Bird

Ekanger and Lemons each put up $250 to incorporate the clinic and organized a board of directors. The two served as the clinic’s co-directors. After securing grants from the city ($4,800) and state ($7,500), plus community donations, White Bird Clinic started operating on February 22, 1970, in a rented house at 837 Lincoln Street. Furniture was donated by local churches. Area hospitals contributed medical equipment and supplies. In the first few weeks, more than 150 doctors and nurses, plus dozens of attorneys, social workers, and educators donated their time and services to get the clinic up and running. After only one month, the clinic was being used as a field site for graduate students in counseling. Soon, more than 100 -university students were clinic volunteers.

In October 1971, the clinic purchased adjacent houses at 323 and 341 E. 12th Avenue for $67,500. The “annex” at 323 E. 12th housed the medical clinic and drug detox and drug education services.  The clinic’s main building at 341 E. 12th was headquarters for crisis intervention, counseling, legal services, and an expanding list of client advocacy and referral programs.

Main Clinic

The house at 341 E. 12th Avenue had once been the residence of a prominent physician who was one of the founders of the Eugene  Clinic. The house was built for $4,000 in 1917 according to the specifications of Dr. Philip Bartle, a specialist in internal medicine who ran his medical practice on the main floor of the 3,500-square-foot, two-story home where he lived with his -wife and two children.

According to The History of the Willamette Valley, Oregon, published in 1927, Philip Bartle was a perfectionist, “a man among men, possessing a strong and forceful personality.” Bartle was committed to working on behalf of the public welfare for the “betterment of the community along all legitimate lines.” In the 1920s, he helped establish the Eugene Hospital and Clinic, at the time one of only two standardized hospitals in Oregon outside of Portland.

Bartle’s home was designed in the popular craftsman style of his day. This elaborate “bungalow-type” of architecture featured large porches with truncated pillars or columns, low-pitched gable-styled roofs with prominent gabled dormers, and multi-paned windows of varying shapes and sizes. The front room had extensive wood detailing—columns, beams, paneling, and window casements. Two maple window seats flanked the first-floor mantel and fireplace.

Outside, near the top of the front of the house was a decorative swastika. It was removed during World War II. By then, Dr. Bartle had moved, and the house was sold to his son, William and his wife, Mildred. During the late 1930s, several rooms were rented to University of Oregon students, a practice that continued until 1971 when Mildred Bartle sold the house to White Bird Clinic.

The clinic’s operations in the 1970s were a lot shakier than the sturdy structure in which they were housed. By 1972, both Dennis Ekanger and Frank Lemons had resigned. Several White Birders were arrested that year on drug charges; they were later acquitted. In October 1972, the clinic’s medical area was temporarily closed because of lack of supplies, lack of money, and lack of support from the Eugene medical community. The county’s medical society came forward to assist the clinic but told White Bird that it had to clean up its act, raise its standards, and be willing to accept outside advice on all medical matters.

Through all the clinic’s hassles in-the early years, a core of dedicated White Birders served the cause. They staffed the clinic’s drug detox program, continued round-the-clock crisis intervention services, and ran an ambitious drug education program in the community—giving frank talks to area schools, church groups, and civic organizations. They published a “Drug Education Primer,” which was distributed throughout Eugene, and they staged street “guerrilla” theater productions to raise community awareness and show the establishment where the cracks in the medical and mental health systems were.

Bob loved to cruise. Here he arrives on his bike at White Bird with a gift! circa 1980White Bird’s topsy-turvy operations continued until the late 1970s. A soft-spoken transplanted New Yorker named Bob Dritz arrived in 1978. He became the clinic’s fiscal officer and ushered in a period of maturity and relative calm. In another life, Dritz could have been a CEO of a start-up company and made a small fortune.

But he used his expertise in fiscal planning and budget management to secure the future of White Bird, not make himself rich. like so many others of his generation, Dritz rejected conventional middle-class values and chose a life of community service and social activism. For his work on behalf of the clinic, Dritz gained near-legendary status. He was proclaimed the “financial savior” of the White Bird Clinic.

In July 1982, Bob Dritz assumed the role of clinic coordinator. At this point, the clinic was being recognized as a legitimate and vital link in the county’s health care system. It had an established crisis counselor training program (the Willamette School of Human Services) licensed by the state of Oregon. The clinic also had a diversified base of funding from local, county, state, and federal grants. By the end of the decade, Dritz would oversee a major expansion and diversification of clinic services.

Today, Bob Dritz talks about how the clinic continues to surprise its critics and leverage its clout as an alternative human service agency.

“We’re willing to take on assignments that no other organization wants or has the ability to perform,” Dritz says, sitting in his office on the second floor of the house with the prominent blue, white and gold bird-in-flight sign hanging above its wide front porch. Throughout its colorful history, the distinctive residence at 341 E. 12th Avenue has undergone many changes and transformations. But after 77 years, it remains a  healing house for people in need in Lane County.

Massé has authored three books of literary journalism (“Vietnam Warrior Voices,” “Trauma Journalism” and “Inspired to Serve.”) He is also a novelist, whose latest work, “Honor House,” will be published on Amazon.com in summer 2020. For more information, visit: http://www.markmasse.com

Helping People in Crisis: Register-Guard Editoral

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.

This editorial is part of a Register-Guard series focusing on productive responses to homelessness reposted with permission from http://registerguard.com/rg/opinion/36272835-78/helping-people-in-crisis.html.csp