Note: Local Press refuse quantity and July article on topic.
When will the county and city powerbrokers take the blinders off, learn what reinvest means and start listening to concerned citizens? Over 400 local citizen ideas about public services and safety have been ignored since meeting in focus groups this summer. The Governor has called for communities to submit plans for improved public safety.
At the recent city public budget hearing Rep Resciniti stated “What I’m hearing here tonight is there is a group of people, and I respect their opinion, that leans towards no support of police, and fine, so be it,” Resciniti said. “No support of police” is a partisan distortion that does not recognize proposed pages of positive services to real people.
In 1969, in Eugene, OR a group of medical workers, university graduate students, energetic counter-culture members and other concerned citizens gathered to explore ways to respond to some of the fallout of the 1960’s, which included a growing number of youth and young adults who felt alienated and disenfranchised from the mainstream system.
Out of this effort came White Bird Socio-medical Aid Station (later White Bird Clinic), incorporated in February 1970 as a 501(c) 3 non-profit agency. With the help of many volunteers the group was able to rent a house, staff it 24/7, train folks in crisis intervention, hold medical clinics with doctors and nurses, offer legal advice with lawyers and paralegals, and guide drug experiences in a safe and supportive way. Word quickly spread that this was a place with caring and helpful people who didn’t ask for money and who didn’t judge or lecture. Fondly called CAHOOTS.
CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets) provides mobile crisis intervention 24/7 in the Eugene-Springfield Metro area. CAHOOTS is dispatched through the Eugene police-fire-ambulance communications center, and within the Springfield urban growth boundary, dispatched through the Springfield non-emergency number. Each team consists of a medic (either a nurse or an EMT) & a crisis worker (who has at least several years’ experience in the mental health field).
CAHOOTS provides immediate stabilization in case of urgent medical need or psychological crisis, assessment, information, referral, advocacy & (in some cases) transportation to the next step in treatment. Any person who reports a crime in progress, violence, or a life-threatening emergency may receive a response from the police or emergency medical services instead of or in addition to CAHOOTS. CAHOOTS offers a broad range of services, including but not limited to:
- Crisis Counseling
- Suicide Prevention, Assessment, and Intervention
- Conflict Resolution and Mediation
- Grief and loss
- Substance Abuse
- Housing Crisis
- First Aid and Non-Emergency Medical Care
- Resource Connection and Referrals
- Transportation to Services
Dispatching appropriate responders for each unique situation is essential to ensuring the best outcome. CAHOOTS focuses exclusively on meeting the medical and mental health needs. A person in mental distress under a wellness call will not be startled by a person in uniform with a gun. A guiding principle is harm reduction and helping the person in stress identify basic needs.
Only 0.6 percent of CAHOOTS calls require police involvement, and not a single person — mental health recipient or CAHOOTS team member — has experienced any serious injury in thirty years.
Recently the NYC mayor took a top-down approach in announcing his new response program that is flawed because it is not community based but instead under the police department. Police and EMS unions are resistant (i.e.immunity).
New York Lawyers for the Public Interest alongside our coalition partners at Correct Crisis Intervention Today – NYC, have a shared mission “to transform how the City responds to mental health crises by diverting crisis responses away from law enforcement.” We know that “mental health crises are not criminal justice matters, and they require a public health response that is led by healthcare professionals with the capacity to deliver person-centered interventions, along with peers with lived mental health experience.”
“Our experience here in New York City show us that no amount of training will equip police officers to serve this function.”
The Correct Crisis Intervention Today in New York City (CCIT-NYC), a group advocating for changes in how the city responds to mental health calls, has noted at least 16 people struggling with mental health issues in the past four-and-a-half years have been fatally shot by NYPD officers. Four others were shot and arrested.
“We really believe that 911—which is within NYPD—will send too many calls to police,” Carla Rabinowitz, CCIT-NYC project coordinator said. “They gave very vague statements on if there’s a weapon, there’s going to be police. A weapon could be a butter knife. A fish hook.”
Clearly the stigmatized populations in Broome County are neglected. We are at a reckoning and we need all the good ideas from everywhere to rectify some past transgressions to the disabled and mentally ill at the BC Jail, to the Black community and to the homeless poor. It is past time for some accountability. Insurance payouts are not atonement for the secrets in this county.
BC does not fund re-entry programs for local incarcerated who are primarily mentally ill, with a substance use disorder or penniless. Just dropping someone off at CPEP or a mobile team with nowhere to get follow up services is insufficient. New York State requires excessive training hours for peer advocates who are integral to a public health approach. Since the BCMHC children’s unit closed in 2010 there is now a statewide lack of services to children of all ages. Doing the same top-down agency dance will not resolve the issue.