This US city sends mental health workers instead of police to non-criminal emergency calls

 

police

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum. 

Author: Alex Thornton, Senior Writer, Formative Content


  • Mental health workers, rather than police, respond to non-criminal emergency 911 calls in Eugene, Oregon.
  • The CAHOOTS programme reduces confrontations involving police officers, saves money, and allows police to concentrate on law enforcement.
  • The programme could be an alternative model for policing in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests and calls to defund the police.
mental health police america defund the police george floyd protests anti establishment
The CAHOOTS programme reduces confrontations involving police officers.
Image: White Bird Clinic

For many Americans experiencing a mental health crisis, the first professional they encounter will be a police officer. It isn’t an ideal combination. Often, someone acting irrationally, erratically or aggressively is confronted by an armed officer trained in the use of force if they feel the public – or themselves – are in danger.

 

Tragically, the results can be fatal. An analysis of police shootings reported by the Washington Post in 2015/16 suggests a quarter of those killed displayed signs of mental illness. In countless more cases, someone in need of medical or psychological care ends up in a cell, rather than getting the treatment they need. With mental illness affecting as many as a quarter of young Americans, the need for an alternative solution is clear.

mental health police america defund the police george floyd protests anti establishment
In 2018, the share of US adults with any mental illness over the last year, by age and gender
Image: Statista

What is the World Economic Forum doing about mental health?

One in four people will experience mental illness in their lives, costing the global economy an estimated $6 trillion by 2030.

Mental ill-health is the leading cause of disability and poor life outcomes in young people aged 10–24 years, contributing up to 45% of the overall burden of disease in this age-group. Yet globally, young people have the worst access to youth mental health care within the lifespan and across all the stages of illness (particularly during the early stages).

In response, the Forum has launched a global dialogue series to discuss the ideas, tools and architecture in which public and private stakeholders can build an ecosystem for health promotion and disease management on mental health.

One of the current key priorities is to support global efforts toward mental health outcomes – promoting key recommendations toward achieving the global targets on mental health, such as the WHO Knowledge-Action-Portal and the Countdown Global Mental Health

Read more about the work of our Platform for Shaping the Future of Health and Healthcare, and contact us to get involved.

A different approach

The city of Eugene, Oregon, takes a different approach. For 30 years, the CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets) programme has been sending teams of unarmed civilians to deal with 911 calls that elsewhere are dealt with by police.

Each team consists of a mental health crisis worker and an EMT (emergency medical technician, or paramedic). Between them, they have the skills and training to deal with mental health issues, homelessness, intoxication, substance abuse, disorientation and dispute resolution.

The programme developed from the work of the White Bird Clinic, a collective founded in 1970 that originally had strong links to counterculture activists, and now provides a range of health, education and community support services.

When 911 calls are assessed by dispatchers, any situations involving violence or criminal activity are routed straight to the police, while CAHOOTS is called in when their expertise is likely to lead to a better outcome. In 2019, CAHOOTS responded to 24,000 calls, and only required back-up from police 150 times.

mental health police america defund the police george floyd protests anti establishment
Savings for the Eugene Police Department from diverting calls to CAHOOTS.
Image: White Bird Clinic

‘Symbiotic relationship’

Eugene’s police department acknowledges that the CAHOOTS teams are often far better equipped to deal with situations where a police response is not the best option. Eugene Police Chief Chris Skinner told CNN the two organizations have a “symbiotic relationship”.

“When they show up, they have better success than police officers do. We’re wearing a uniform, a gun, a badge – it feels very demonstrative for someone in crisis.”

CAHOOTS services are voluntary and free of charge, funded by the city. The group claims it has saved the Eugene Police Department an average of $8.5 million a year in call-outs that would otherwise be handled by their officers – leaving the police to concentrate on law enforcement instead.

A better use of police funds?

Interest in the success of the CAHOOTS model has surged in the wake of the death of George Floyd, the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests, and growing calls to defund the police.

What’s the World Economic Forum doing about diversity, equity and inclusion?

The COVID-19 pandemic and recent social and political unrest have created a profound sense of urgency for companies to actively work to tackle racial injustice and inequality. In response, the Forum’s Platform for Shaping the Future of the New Economy and Society has established a high-level community of Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officers. The community will develop a vision, strategies and tools to proactively embed equity into the post-pandemic recovery and shape long-term inclusive change in our economies and societies.

As businesses emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, they have a unique opportunity to ensure that equity, inclusion and justice define the “new normal” and tackle exclusion, bias and discrimination related to race, gender, ability, sexual orientation and all other forms of human diversity. It is increasingly clear that new workplace technologies and practices can be leveraged to significantly improve diversity, equity and inclusion outcomes.

The World Economic Forum has developed a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Toolkit, to outline the practical opportunities that this new technology represents for diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, while describing the challenges that come with it.

The toolkit explores how technology can help reduce bias from recruitment processes, diversify talent pools and benchmark diversity and inclusion across organisations. The toolkit also cites research that suggests well-managed diverse teams significantly outperform homogenous ones over time, across profitability, innovation, decision-making and employee engagement.

The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Toolkit is available here.

Deaths at the hands of the police are much more frequent in the US compared with many other countries, with race seen as a significant factor. There have been several high-profile examples of so-called “welfare checks” – the kind of situations that in Eugene would be handled by CAHOOTS – ending in tragedy.

mental health police america defund the police george floyd protests anti establishment
Rate of civilians killed by the police annually in selected countries, as of 2019(per 10 million residents).
Image: Statista

Some proponents of moves to defund the police argue that redirecting money from police departments to mental health, homelessness, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, and community outreach services would not only reduce the number of confrontations involving the police, but lead to significantly better outcomes for individuals and communities, and deliver better value for money.

mental health police america defund the police george floyd protests anti establishment
Police spending per capita in major U.S. cities.
Image: Statista

So could the CAHOOTS model be the answer? The programme’s co-founder, David Zeiss, is at pains to point out that CAHOOTS is not, and never could be, a replacement for police altogether.

“Partnership with police has always been essential to our model,” he told CNN. “A CAHOOTS-like programme without a close relationship with police would be very different from anything we’ve done. I don’t have a coherent vision of a society that has no police force.”

However, the White Bird Clinic is already in discussions with authorities in other cities, offering lessons from their experience and advice about how to successfully build partnerships with local services and community groups. There is no simple template that can be easily copied nationwide, but the volunteers at CAHOOTS in Eugene may well serve as the inspiration for a new way of policing in a fairer, and safer, world.

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

China is a renewable energy champion. But it’s time for a new approach

250+ senior claims leaders under one roof, exchanging transformation strategy

More needs to be done to bridge the digital gender divide

Parliament commemorates the liberation of Auschwitz 75 years ago

Upgraded EU visa information database to increase security at external borders

Khashoggi murder trials must public and meet international standards, UN expert urges

How LA plans to be 1.6°C cooler by 2050

Seize the opportunities of digital technology to improve well-being but also address the risks

Women’s work faces the greatest risk of automation, says new research

Is a deal over EU budget possible today?

‘Global sisterhood’ tells perpetrators ‘time is up’ for pandemic of violence

WEF Davos 2016 LIVE: “CO2 is not the problem, it is the symptom”, the pilots who crossed the world using solar energy cry out from Davos

“The Belt and Road Initiative should be mutually beneficial for EU and China and every participating country”, Vice-President Papadimoulis of the European Parliament underscores from European Business Summit 2018

Single Market Scoreboard 2020: Member States need to do more to ensure the good functioning of the EU Single Market*

This is what the UK’s major supermarkets say about plastic packaging and the environment

MEPs demand an end to migrant deaths across the Mediterranean Sea

Pakistan’s digital revolution is happening faster than you think

Syria still suffering ‘staggering levels’ of humanitarian need, Security Council hears

From low-earth orbit, ‘envoys’ of humanity join UN space forum

Find unity ‘to halt Libya’s senseless unraveling’, UN envoy urges Security Council

Burnout is a pandemic. Why don’t we talk more about it?

UN chief extends condolences to families of China landslide casualties

Quashing myths on 2019-nCoV for better public management

DR Congo Ebola centre attacks could force retreat against the deadly disease, warns UN health chief

EU-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement sees the light as Moscow’s reaction once more looms

How speaking ‘parentese’ to your child could make them a faster learner

Five-year low inflation for Eurozone and now Mario has to finally wake up the Germans

Idai disaster: Stranded victims still need rescue from heavy rains as UN scales up response

EU-China: Council authorises signature of the agreement on geographical indications

War in Syria: ‘Carnage’, flouting of rights and international law, must stop: Guterres

Youth Forum welcomes European Commission proposal to speed up financing for youth employment

MasterCard at European Business Summit 2015: A focus on innovation will drive inclusive economic growth for Europe

Is technology key to improving global health and education, or just an expensive distraction?

Rule of Law: European Commission refers Poland to the Court of Justice to protect judges from political control

What is behind the wide reach of  fake news about Coronavirus?

EU-Vietnam trade agreement enters into force

Why impoverishment and social exclusion grow in the EU; the affluent north also suffers

COVID-19 and nature are linked. So should be the recovery.

Corporate tax remains a key revenue source, despite falling rates worldwide

Residents and visitors to this Dutch neighborhood could share a pool of cars and bikes

Europe might not avoid new partitioning on Ukrainian crisis

Draghi to hold on zero interest rates until he leaves ECB

This is how drones and other ‘tradetech’ are transforming international trade

Empathy and human connection: how businesses can respond to COVID-19

UNICEF reports uneven progress in 30 years of child rights treaty

3 important lessons from 20 years of working with social entrepreneurs

United States: UN chief ‘deeply saddened’ by deadly California wildfires

Coronavirus: Commission Statement on consulting Member States on proposal to further expand State aid Temporary Framework to recapitalisation measures

Europe united in not supporting a US attack on Syria

These are the world’s 10 most competitive economies in 2019

Apple’s tax avoidance scheme remains as creative as their new iPhone

Practicing healthcare: Skills of a good healthcare professional and its effects

The European Sting live from the World Economic Forum 2015 in Davos

How global tech companies can champion ethical AI

Parliament wants to suspend EU accession negotiations with Turkey

‘Fire-fighting approach’ to humanitarian aid ‘not sustainable’: Deputy UN chief

This is the critical number that shows when housing breaks down

Horn of Africa: UN chief welcomes Djibouti agreement between Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia

Guterres appeals for ‘maximum restraint’ over Jammu and Kashmir, as tensions rise

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s