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Mental health and substance use disorders (MH/SUD) require health care, but the absence of accessible, affordable MH/SUD care has led police to become the default first responders, despite not being adequately prepared or appropriately trained to respond to behavioral health crises. Police response to mental health crises can be especially damaging in Black communities and other communities of color, and too often, police encounters with individuals with mental illness end tragically.
The Crisis Assistance Helping Out on The Streets (CAHOOTS) program in Eugene, Oregon provides a model for dispatching mobile teams of health care and crisis workers, rather than law enforcement, to respond to individuals experiencing a mental health or substance use disorder crisis.
We urge you to send the below message to your members of Congress to encourage them to cosponsor the CAHOOTS Act (S. 764/H.R. 1914), which would provide funding to help states adopt mobile crisis response models, based on the CAHOOTS program.
Cosponsor the CAHOOTS Act
Dear [Decision Maker],
I write to urge you to cosponsor the Crisis Assistance Helping Out on The Streets (CAHOOTS) Act (S. 764/H.R. 1914), which would provide enhanced federal Medicaid funding and grants to states to help them establish and evaluate mobile crisis response teams to respond to individuals experiencing crises related to mental illness and addiction.
Mental health and substance use disorders (MH/SUD) are health care issues, not crimes, and should be treated as such with appropriate crisis response that connects people to care, not jail. Jails and prisons are overcrowded with people arrested for minor, nonviolent offenses who would be better served through health and social services. People with mental illness are too often the victims of fatal police shootings, with incidents often involving drugs or alcohol. Police response to mental health crises can be especially damaging in Black communities and other communities of color. Police are not adequately trained or prepared to appropriately respond to behavioral health crises, and most individuals with MH/SUD do not receive the treatment they need once in jail. For over 30 years, the CAHOOTS Program in Eugene, Oregon, has dispatched mobile teams of health care and crisis workers, rather than police, to respond to individuals experiencing a mental health or substance use disorder crisis. The CAHOOTS Act would provide states with enhanced Medicaid funding to adopt their own community-based mobile crisis services, as well as $25 million for grants to states to help establish, expand, and evaluate mobile crisis programs. It would require mobile crisis teams to be available 24/7 and trained in trauma-informed care, de-escalation, harm reduction, and coordination/referrals to follow-up care and wraparound services. It would also require the Department of Health and Human Services to identify best practices for delivering effective mobile crisis intervention services.
Thank you for your consideration. I hope you will cosponsor the CAHOOTS Act to expand health care-based responses to crises related to mental health and substance use disorders, promote racial justice, and reduce police brutality.