In 1989, the city of Eugene developed an innovative community-based public safety system to respond to crises involving mental illness, homelessness and addiction.

The Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets (CAHOOTS) program in Eugene has a 31-year history of success, garnering critical acclaim and saving money for their police and fire departments.

It is obvious that Clatsop County has issues with homelessness, with drug and alcohol addictions and with mental health concerns. A large portion of the calls that the police department responds to are related to these issues. The county needs a similar program to provide interventions to crises involving mental illness, homelessness and addiction.

As an addition to the emergency response systems used by communities in the county, a CAHOOTS-type program would support local police departments by responding to crisis situations, other situations needing de-escalation, behavioral and mental health concerns, intoxication calls, welfare checks, first aid and even death notices.

The teams would emphasize de-escalation and crisis intervention to resolve situations where a social service response is more appropriate than a police response. The CAHOOTS model is a logical evolution to our emergency response systems.

We need the county commissioners to commit to a path forward that will investigate and, as appropriate, develop a CAHOOTS-type program to serve Clatsop County.