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CAHOOTS Asks City Officials For More Funding To Help Expand And Retain Staff

Brian Bull

Eugene’s mobile crisis service, CAHOOTS, has been celebrated as a model alternative to policing. But the organization says it needs more funds from the City of Eugene.

CAHOOTS says it’d like 5 percent of Community Safety Initiative Budget funds. The amount it needs to stabilize it says, comes to $1.8 million. They add CAHOOTS saves the City of Eugene nearly that amount every year in law enforcement wages.  

While the service has received national accolades for its life-saving and cost-saving approach, operators say they “must recognize the disconnect between expressed praise and ongoing financial backing.”

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
A CAHOOTS team responds to calls in downtown Eugene, February 2019.

CAHOOTS crisis worker Laurel Lisovskis another other representatives say they need to address staff retention issues, and want to provide team members with a wage increase from $18 to $25 dollars an hour.

“The work we do is really unique and extremely rewarding,” Lisovskis told KLCC.  “But it can’t be…like that intrinsic reward can’t be the only factor that keeps people around, we need to be able to offer people a living wage.”

Livoskis says after extensive training and work experience, many team members find themselves with skills that can earn them jobs elsewhere, that potentially pay better.  Intense hours, stress, and the pressure to expand services can also factor into retention.

Livoskis says CAHOOTS has never advocated for itself on this level before.  She says they appreciate the support they’ve received already for their work to de-escalate potentially traumatic situations, and help people on the street with mental health episodes.  Now that support needs to be reflected through increased financial support.

“Part of it is because we are becoming quickly a national model, and that is really humbling and it also helps us take a look at ourselves,” said Lisovskis.  “We understand that we save the city money and we do really good work, but it’s not an expectation that other cities should have at the rate of funding that we have right now.”

The City of Eugene has not responded to a request for a comment. But Lisovskis says they’re talking with members of the budget committee.

CAHOOTS – which stands for Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets – began in 1989, as a joint effort between the White Bird Clinic and Eugene Police Department.

Copyright 2021, KLCC.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ 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 (22 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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