White Bird’s CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets) program continues to make headlines. CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell correspondent Omar Villafranca went on a ride-along with CAHOOTS to see them at work and learn why the program is being considered by cities across the country.
Denver police officials said they are considering the model as an option to push beyond their existing co-responder program. New York City is looking to the program as “a model for non-police response to non-criminal emergencies.”
Salem nonprofits are looking at the model for mobile crisis response. “CAHOOTS gets 2 percent of the police budget, but with that 2 percent they handle 17 percent of public safety calls,” said Ashley Hamilton, who’s helping spearhead the idea.
Rogue Valley law enforcement, mental health professionals and advocates, elected officials and other concerned community members gathered at the Medford Police Department to hear Tim Black talk via Skype about the program in September. In November, city commissioners are expected to discuss how the program would work in Portland.
The power of White Bird’s CAHOOTS program lies in its community relationships and the ability of first responders to simply ask, ‘How can I support you today?’ White Bird Clinic is proud to be a part of spreading this type of response across Oregon and the rest of the United States. Please consider a donation to help us expand our model.
In 1969, a group of student activists and concerned practitioners founded White Bird Clinic to provide crisis services and free medical care to counter-culture youth in Eugene. Having grown continuously for fifty years, White Bird now has ten programs, 200 staff members, and more than 400 volunteers.
To celebrate our fiftieth, we’re growing our programs, demonstrating our commitment to serving low income, under-resourced community members. In response to burgeoning community need, White Bird is expanding medical, dental, crisis, and CAHOOTS services.
White Bird has a fifty-year track record of identifying, assessing, and responding to community need by leveraging our existing resources. We respond rapidly and effectively by building on existing, successful programs. Our expansion consists of:
Opening a new medical walk-in clinic for individuals who are low-income and/or homeless and uninsured. The clinic, below the existing primary care clinic, will provide an alternative for patients experiencing an acute issue who lack health insurance, diverting a great number of emergency room visits.
Enlarging the dental program to increase its capacity to serve patients by nearly 75%. White Bird is renovating the building at 1415 Pearl St. into a clinic that will also provide denture care for elderly patients and serve more children and families.
Increasing access to crisis services by moving the crisis program to 990 W 7th Ave., adjacent to the Whitaker neighborhood. The new crisis center will house the 24/7 crisis line phone service as well as walk-in services in a trauma-informed space intended to minimize environmental triggers that may be re-traumatizing.
Expanding the hours and geographic coverage of CAHOOTS mobile crisis services, which responded to over 21,000 calls in 2018, saving an estimated $6M in emergency medical services costs alone.
In order to serve more folks in need, White Bird is taking a risk by growing many different programs at once, and we’re turning to the community for support and partnership. Please call 541.342.8255 or donate to support the project of your choice.
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.
The Wall Street Journal featured CAHOOTS as a model for reducing risk of violence in a November 24, 2018 article by Zusha Elinson. It is included below and as a PDF with permission from the publisher.
Help Expand CAHOOTS
To celebrate our fiftieth, we’re growing our programs, demonstrating our commitment to serving low income, under-resourced community members. In response to burgeoning community need, we are expanding the hours of CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets) mobile crisis services, which responded to over 23,000 calls in 2018, saving an estimated $6M in emergency medical services costs alone.
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.