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CAHOOTS Act Rolled Out In The U.S. Senate

Brian Bull

As promised, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden introduced the CAHOOTS Act today.  The bill encourages a health care response over law enforcement action in cases where a person is having a mental health crisis, or disorder tied to substance abuse.

“Unfortunately there are countless examples of tragic and often needless intersections between law enforcement and people facing challenges that fall well short of criminal behavior,” the Oregon lawmaker told reporters in a conference call.

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
File photo of Senator Ron Wyden, at a town hall meeting in Lane County.

Wyden says as ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, he should be able to help push it along.  He also feels confident that it will have bipartisan appeal. 

The bill would grant states enhanced federal Medicaid funding – at a 95% match – for three years to provide mobile crisis services. It also provides $25 million towards planning grants to help states create or expand such services. 

Meanwhile, a CAHOOTS administrator said he’s amazed at all the recognition the program is receiving.

Tim Black is Director of Consulting for CAHOOTS. He said Senator Ron Wyden’s bill to promote the program as a national model for alternative policing really recognizes his team’s work.

“It seemed for a long time like this was going to be just one component of the large George Floyd Justice in Policing Act," Black told KLCC.  "So when we heard from Senator Wyden’s office that this was going to be its own standalone bill, we were just blown away.

"And so there’s a lot of validation with this level of federal support to empower cities across the U.S. to work with us and really explore how this model can be implemented in their communities.”

CAHOOTS – which stands for Crisis Intervention Helping Out On the Streets – launched July 4th, 1989. 

While originally framed tongue-in-cheek as counterculture hippies being in “cahoots” with law enforcement, the service has been hailed by mental health advocates and police alike in helping save money, dignity, and lives.

Copyright 2020, KLCC.

Brian Bull joined the KLCC News Team in June 2016. In his 25+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (19 regional), the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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