Mobile response unit coming to Oakland to help with non-violent 911 calls

Bay Area

OAKLAND, Calif. (KRON) — For the past three decades, a mobile response unit has been assisting Eugene, Oregon police respond to non-violent 911 calls.

Now, an East Bay city appears to be on track to launch their own version of the program. On Thursday, KRON4’s Haaziq Madyun spoke to the program’s executive coordinator and Eugene’s chief of police to get their takes on how it works.

A mobile assistance crisis response pilot program will soon be on the streets of Oakland. It is modeled after Eugene, Oregon’s CAHOOTS program.

“CAHOOTS stands for crisis assistance helping out on the street,” Chris Hecht said.

Hecht is the executive coordinator of the White Bird clinic in Eugene, Oregon. White Bird operates 10 different programs that primarily serves the unhoused community, CAHOOTS being one of them.

“A CAHOOTS team consists of two people. One person is a medic or EMT,” he said. “One person who has experience in behavioral health counseling. CAHOOTS staff are not police. They’re not trained in policing. They don’t carry weapons.”

The mobile crisis response program operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

“We have three vans out on the street during the day time,” Hecht said. “At night we go down to two.”

Over the past year, the city of Oakland’s police commission has been laying the foundation for Oakland’s version of the CAHOOTS program called “Macro.”

“I am concerned that we do have to continue to respond to those 911 calls and a scathing grand jury report just came out saying that Oakland is not doing a good enough job,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said.

“It’s not like we’re trying to build a piano here,” Chris Skinner said. “Let’s have mental health first responders respond to behavioral health issues.”

In fact Eugene, Oregon Police Chief Chris Skinner says the additional help with non-violent calls for service is a benefit for his officers.

“Ultimately do some of these calls really need a police response or do they need a behavioral health response? So when you have a system like CAHOOTS we are able to triage those calls on the front end, which frees up our police officers to do what I think community members want them to which is be in their neighborhoods patrolling and keeping them safe,” Chief Skinner said.

Oakland city officials anticipate rolling out their version of the CAHOOTS model as early as fall 2020.

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